Youth Services Law

For Children with Disabilities, Successful Projects Trump Sensitivity Training

For Children with Disabilities, Successful Projects Trump Sensitivity TrainingA recent post in Scientific Blogging reports on soon-to-be-published research into inclusive classrooms for children with disabilities.  Noting the fact that 40 percent of children with disabilities “enter kindergarten without age-appropriate social relationship skills,” the author of the study, Lori Erbrederis Meyer, found that inclusive classrooms with disability awareness curricula did “not equate to increased acceptance, classroom membership or peer relationship.”

The study looked at 26 kindergarteners with disabilities spread among six inclusive classrooms.  One group followed the “Special Friends” curriculum, with an emphasis on teaching children to be more aware of and accommodating to their peers with disabilities.  A second group did not address disabilities specifically, but focused on cooperative science projects.

To the surprise of the researchers, the children in the science-based group developed more best friends than the children in the awareness group.  The major difference that the researchers noted in the two groups was that the “Special Friends” classrooms encouraged open-ended play, while the science group focused on projects with clearly-defined outcomes.

This outcome should not surprise anyone who has been keeping up with recent mental health research showing that children who can point to concrete accomplishments have higher self-esteem and better self-regulation.  Nor would it be a surprise to generations of sports coaches and fine arts teachers, who have long known that children who succeed together find ways to become friends.

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