Inclusion through infusion: disability awareness training for elementary educators
Cassiere, Amanda Rose
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Evidence consistently reveals that taking part in an inclusion classroom does not guarantee that children with disabilities will be accepted, valued, or included (Lindsay & Edwards, 2012; Rillota & Nettelbeck, 2007; Ison et al., 2010). Children with disabilities have been reported to have significantly less friendships and overall social participation within the school environment (Ison et al., 2010). With the growing number of youth with disabilities in the United States and the important push for education in the least restrictive environment (Currie & Kahn, 2012), it is concerning that so many of these children are still feeling devalued among their typically developing peers. Since the 1980s, disability awareness programs have incorporated activities to increase knowledge and understanding of disabilities as a means to improve attitudes toward and acceptance of the growing number of children being mainstreamed (Lindsay & Edwards, 2012). However, these programs are often disjointed from the general education teachers and the general curriculum, and rarely extend the length of an entire academic year; this is a potential cause of their short-lived impact (Lindsay & Edwards, 2012; Rillota & Nettelbeck, 2007; Ison et al., 2010; de Boer, Pijl, Minnaert & Post, 2014; Hurst et al., 2012; Hunt & Hunt, 2004; Favazza, Phillipsen & Kumar, 2000; Freeman 2000). This doctoral project, Inclusion through Infusion: Disability Awareness Training for Elementary Educators, seeks to develop an evidence-based solution to the challenges outlined above. This teacher training program strives to provide education, support and structure for implementation of disability modules within the general curriculum of a New York State first grade inclusion classroom. The program modules aim to eliminate barriers to implementation, such as lack of academic time, knowledge, and confidence in educators, with the greater goal of improving typically developing children’s attitude towards and acceptance of their peers with disabilities.