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Title:Disability in cultural context: providing social and emotional support for Japanese children with developmental disabilities in regular classrooms
Author(s):Kayama, Misa
Director of Research:Haight, Wendy L.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Miller, Peggy J.; Kopels, Sandra; Carter-Black, Janet
Department / Program:School of Social Work
Discipline:Social Work
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Children with disabilities
Elementary School
Children’s development
Cultural Sensitivity
Abstract:This ethnographic study examined special education in an elementary school in Japan through participant observation, in-depth interviews, and case studies of children with developmental disabilities. Participants are three children with developmental disabilities, their parents, and 15 educators. Children’s disabilities were considered to result from neurological conditions, including learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders. These disabilities are frequently referred to as “developmental disabilities” in Japan. Traditionally, Japanese children with these disabilities were considered to be slow learners or “difficult” children. In contrast to more visible disabilities involving mobility, vision, and hearing, their challenges are hidden from view, which makes it difficult for educators to recognize and interpret their struggles and provide them with appropriate support. It was not until 2007 that these children received formal special education services. Such policies related to special education have been controversial among some educators and parents due to beliefs regarding the sociocultural embeddedness of disabilities. Although Japanese educators, parents, and legislators generally recognize the need for special education for children with developmental disabilities, the idea of providing individualized support conflicts with the traditional Japanese educational practices that center children’s socialization and learning within their peer groups. Participant educators and parents struggle to address this dilemma by providing special education services in regular classrooms, small groups, or individual settings without labeling children. Educators guided children with developmental disabilities to learn skills in a protected environment where they felt safe and comfortable, for example, by involving their peers in the support and valuing their needs as opportunities for peers’ moral education. Educators also used children’s problems and needs in their daily lives at school to create opportunities for them to learn and guided them to handle the problems. Parents who struggled to accept their children’s special needs also received support from educators to become active collaborators with them in supporting their children at school and home. Instead of explicitly directing or teaching parents, educators guided parents to understand their children’s disabilities and participate in supporting their children “naturally.” These implicit strategies, such as creating an environment where children and their parents feel safe and accepted, were embedded in children’s social contexts and observed frequently at the site of this study. Results raise issues for supporting children with disabilities that may have broad relevance beyond the Japanese cases observed in this study, for example, the use of peers as a support system for children with disabilities in other cultural contexts, including the U.S.
Issue Date:2012-02-01
Genre:Dissertation / Thesis
Rights Information:Copyright 2011 Misa Kayama
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-02-01
Date Deposited:2011-12

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