Articles from InSpEd Insights

The following articles and publication summaries have been taken from various issues of InSpEd Insights.

Articles

Research Presentations (Jun-24)

Dr Sarah Carlon and Dr Yuriko Kishida, both members of InSpEd, recently presented papers at the second Professionals and Researchers in Early Childhood Intervention (PRECI) national conference held in Surfers Paradise, May 1-3 this year. Dr Carlon’s presentation, Do advertised Australian early childhood intervention roles reflect best practice?, was based on a paper, written by the InSpEd Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) research Team, of which she was first author. She also co-presented a second presentation with her colleague Megan Cooper, an InSpEd certified Special Educator, titled Establishing and maintaining a collaborative coaching partnership to support inclusion in an early childhood education and care service.

Dr Kishida’s presentation, Promoting engagement and participation in daily activities through systematic observation of engagement, provided a summary of two research projects, led by Dr Kishida, that involved training inservice and preservice teachers to use the Individual Child Engagement Record-Revised (ICER-R), a measure of engagement and interaction, with children in early childhood and school settings. Information relating to this measure can be found at Child Engagement – a Measure of Learning Opportunity and Inclusive Practice.

InSpEd Postgraduate Student Award - Debra Quelch (Jun-24)

Each year, we ask the staff of the postgraduate special/inclusive education courses that we have provisionally endorsed to nominate a student for an InSpEd Postgraduate Student Award. An outstanding postgraduate special education student from the University of Southern Queensland, Debra Quelch, was presented with her award by InSpEd Board member, Dr Nicole Todd, in May of this year. Included is an overview of Debra’s path to study in special education following a struggle with a system that did not cater well for her autistic children.

What’s in a Name? (Jun-24)

In the following Nomanis editorial, the terms Response to Intervention and Multi-tiered System of Support are discussed in relation to the three levels of instructional support in mainstream educational environments. It was published in the January 2024 issue of Nomanis and is reproduced here with the permission of the editors, Dr Robyn Wheldall and Professor Kevin Wheldall, directors of MultiLit Pty Ltd and members of the InSpEd Expert Panel.

Publication Summary (Jun-24)

The following summary of a paper by Hornby, & Kauffman  (2023), questioning the support for full inclusion and the argument against the value of special education, was provided by Carol Barnes, Honorary Visiting Fellow within the School of Education at the University of NSW and national coordinator for Gifted Learners with Disability (GLD) Australia.

Audit Office of NSW Report on Supporting Students with a Disability (Jun-24)

The InSpEd submission, summarised in this issue of the newsletter, focussed on the area of Strengthen support: investing in teachers and other support staff, which was one of four areas identified in the NSW Department of Education Disability Strategy.

Autism CRC Response (Jun-24)

A formal response to the questions posed by Autism CRC was submitted by the InSpEd Board. Following is a summary of the main points made in that response.

Qualifications Required for Australian Special Education Roles (Mar-24)

If anyone had any doubt about the decline in availability of specialist instructional support in our schools, one only has to check the qualifications needed to take up a role related to disability and learning and behavioural difficulties in departments of education across Australia. This applies not just to the special education roles in specialist and mainstream schools but also to senior roles in departmental offices. The following information with regard to essential/desirable qualifications for those working in special education support roles has been taken from state departments of education websites.

Response to the Expert Panel Consultation Paper into the Teaching of Literacy and Numeracy in ACT Public Schools (Mar-24)

Despite the fact that funding for public schools in the ACT is better than in other states and territories and that the ACT population is, on the whole, well educated and advantaged, we observed that there was still a sizable number of students not achieving proficiency in literacy and numeracy. We registered our concern about the current approach to literacy and numeracy in the ACT, particularly at the primary school level.

Submission to the NSW Upper House Inquiry into Children and Young People with Disability in New South Wales Educational Settings (Mar-24)

As with many past submissions our focus was the importance of appropriately qualified special educators as an essential human resource to support students with disability and their teachers. We, therefore, suggested that the Department of Education in NSW must move to increase the number of qualified special educators.

Response to the Recommendations of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability (Mar-24)

Feedback was requested with regard to the recommendations that we supported and those that we did not support. We stated that we supported all recommendations that protected the rights of individuals with disability to equality, and access to (a) quality health care, (b) education, and (a) information affecting their lives and the recommendations intended to reduce violence, abuse and neglect of people with disability. In response to the recommendation by three commissioners that special schools and classes, day programs and supported employment be phased out,  we  emphasised the importance of program quality over place of program delivery and the need for specialist input.

Easing the Tension between Medical and Social Models of Disability: The Biopsychosocial Model of Disability (Dec-23)

Teachers and allied health professionals with prior qualifications in education, therapy, psychology, or law may already have clear views about disability and diagnoses that come from their own personal experience, from their family, or from the work that they do. Yet whether professionals have direct experience or not, how individuals come to perceive disability is significantly influenced by the culture they live in because it is one’s culture that dictates what one defines as normal and abnormal, and this then influences how they respond.

Currently, in the west, there are two major – and conflicting – models of disability. These are the medical model and the social model. At a time when research into disabilities may be more important to society than at any point in the past, researchers generally favour either the medical or social model of disability to frame their approach and findings. Both models have their advantages and disadvantages. A third, integrated model of disability – the biopsychosocial model – of disability brings together the medical and social models of disability.

A comment on the family experience of the Australian National Disability Insurance Scheme (Sep-23)

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a scheme that the Australian Government designated to fund costs associated with disability. The scheme was legislated in 2013 and went into full operation in 2020. Prior to 2013, disability funding in Australia had typically been a block type system, where agreed funds were distributed directly from the government to the service providers according to predicted output. The aim of this article is to shine a light on the current consumer experience of parents of young children with a disability. When addressing families’ challenges and needs – does the NDIS offer families control, controlled choice or do support needs remain unmet?

Qualifications in Special Education: Are departments of education ensuring that universities are including the relevant evidence-based content? (Sep-23 Issue)

We note that the Federal Minister for Education has put universities ‘on notice’ that they must now include evidence-based content for teaching early literacy and numeracy skills and implementing behaviour management strategies in their initial teacher education courses. This follows countless submissions and research demonstrating that evidence-based content has been lacking in many Australian university courses preparing teachers to work in school education. With two years to ensure that the necessary content is included, there is hope that, in future, teachers will be better prepared for this important professional role. It is our hope that it will not take as long to rescue many of the postgraduate university courses preparing teachers and other professionals to teach students with disabilities and learning and behaviour difficulties.

Submission on Initial Teacher Education (ITE) (Jun-23 Issue)

The focus of the InSpEd submission on Initial Teacher Education (ITE) was the education of students with disability and special education needs. We argued that the presence of students with disability in mainstream classrooms means that all teachers need some preparation for the inclusion of these students in their initial teacher education and that the day-to-day practices of classroom teachers impact all students, including those at risk of learning failure through disability or other factors.

Senate Inquiry into the Issue of Increasing Disruption in Australian School Classrooms (Jun-23 Issue)

The focus of the submission was the role of qualified special educators in supporting teachers and students, particularly in relation to preventing and addressing problem behaviour. Specifically, we addressed what can be done to assist classroom teachers and the actions that could be taken to improve the quality of the support provided to teaches and students. We contend that poor achievement in literacy and numeracy is related to problem behaviour, and a proactive approach to behaviour will likely improve academic learning in schools.
InSpEd endorses proactive approaches to behaviour in schools, particularly the PBIS model. We believe this model will be best implemented when each school has a qualified special educator to advise and support teachers in assessing academic and behavioural difficulties and developing evidence-based interventions.

How Sustainable are Claims about Evidence-based Content in Australian Courses for Preparing Special Educators? (Mar-23 Issue)

There is increased interest in using research-based practices in Australian education generally, and in the education of students with disability and special education needs. There are many terms and meanings related to research-based or evidence-based practice. In this paper we used the definition of evidence-based practices (EBPs) as those that have support from multiple, quality, experimental research studies. It is important to include information about these practices in programs preparing special educators, as they are more likely to result in improved student outcomes.

Inclusion: Ideology vs Reality (Sep-22 Issue)

Having a son with a disability encouraged Barbara to take up a career in special education. Subsequent appointments to a support unit and a special school prompted her to enrol in a master’s degree in special education. Barbara has since worked in a range of special education settings in both regional and metropolitan schools. For the past two decades Barbara has been Head Teacher Special Education in two secondary schools. Barbara’s areas of interest for people with disability focus on developing literacy skills, the use/misuse of ‘games’ for learning and post school success in adulthood as successful independent citizens. In the following article Barbara presents her experience of inclusion over her extensive career in education.

What Does it Mean to be Included? (Sep-22 Issue)

There have been many submissions and follow-witness statements to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability supporting the inclusion of all children with a disability in regular education classrooms. I have accessed some of the hearings online and, as both an experienced research and practitioner, I have been concerned about some of the statements made in those hearings. I appears that both human rights and research is being used to support the case for the full inclusion of students with disabilities including those with severe intellectual disability and multiple disabilities.

Is Fostering School Connectedness and School Belonging an Answer to the Growing Number of Children Displaying School Refusal Behaviour? (Dec-21 Issue)

School attendance is a normal routine for most students. However, it is estimated that up to 28% of students reveal a level of school refusal behaviour at some point in their academic career (Pina, Zerr, Gonzales, & Ortiz, 2009). This topic is of special significance for educators in regular and special schools. A student’s academic and social-emotional development may be jeopardized with mounting absence from school. However, over the past two years, children in most states of Australia have been required to stay at home for long periods of time due to the COVID pandemic and many students may develop a level of reluctance to attend once restrictions are lifted.

What's in a Plan? (Sep-21 Issue)

Individual Education Plans (IEPs) are used as planning tools in many developed countries (Dempsy, 2012). The purpose of the IEP document in the United States, as reported by Christle and Yell (2010), is to both direct and monitor all components of a student’s individual program. Because the IEP is enshrined in law in that country, the need for individualised programs for students with disabilities is not debated. What is discussed is the quality of IEP documents and how they are used to guide practice.

What is the Evidence for the Use of Canine-Assisted Learning for Students with Disability in School Settings? (Jun-21 Issue)

The involvement of dogs in interventions for children with disabilities, especially autism spectrum disorders (ASD), has received increasing attention since 2000, along with other animal-assisted therapies or activities. There is a difference between structured therapies or interventions with set goals, delivered by a therapist or an educator, and animal-assisted activities where the animal is part of an informal activity that may have benefits but where there are no specific goals.

Post School Neglect: Expensive Adult Minding (Jun-20 Issue)

It is an expectation of many parents of school leavers that a young adult leaving school would, at some stage, continue their education as a key part in the development of their post school working life. This may be via a natural transition from school to university or TAFE or as an industry-based apprentice. For some this may take place immediately upon leaving school, while for others this will occur at a later stage or even in an early to mid-career stage when an individual realises that progression, career opportunities and higher remuneration, by and large, requires some form of further learning and development.

What Does Evidence-Based Practice Mean in Education in 2019? (Jun-19 Issue)

It seems that barely a week goes past in which there is not some kind of debate in social or mainstream media about education and its use of evidence. On one side of this debate, we see calls for the higher visibility of evidence-based (or evidence-informed) practice (disclaimer: I am one of those voices) in teacher pre-service education and everyday practice, while in others, we see counter-claims, sometimes framed in postmodern parlance, to the effect that education should be afforded a special place in the professional accountability shadows, because what goes in on classrooms is “too complex”, or because teaching is more of a je ne sais quoi craft that can be neither usefully studied by researchers nor effectively taught to pre-service teachers. Both of these extremes are problematic for practising teachers, particularly those at the start of their careers.

How do Families of Young Children with Developmental Delays and Disabilities Experience the NDIS? (Sep-19 Issue)

Much anticipation existed regarding the implementation of the NDIS across Australia. It was designed to replace the long-standing difficulties of a fragmented service system and provide support to people with disability from birth to 65 years of age, their families, and carers. Scheme participants receive direct funding and are encouraged to purchase their own services and must understand, navigate, and source markets of private and non-for-profit providers. Howard, Blakemore, Johnston, Taylor and Dibley (2015) have suggested that the design of the scheme appears to assume decision-making and service planning processes more suitable for adults with disabilities. What does this mean for young children (birth to 6 years of age) with developmental delays and established disabilities (DD) and their families? The NDIS designed the Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) approach to address the service needs of this population. However, several government reports as well as a limited number of studies have continuously revealed difficulties with its implementation.

Child Engagement - A Measure of Learning Opportunity and Inclusive Practice (Mar-20 Issue)

Much anticipation existed regarding the implementation of the NDIS across Australia. It was designed to replace the long-standing difficulties of a fragmented service system and provide support to people with disability from birth to 65 years of age, their families, and carers. Scheme participants receive direct funding and are encouraged to purchase their own services and must understand, navigate, and source markets of private and non-for-profit providers. Howard, Blakemore, Johnston, Taylor and Dibley (2015) have suggested that the design of the scheme appears to assume decision-making and service planning processes more suitable for adults with disabilities. What does this mean for young children (birth to 6 years of age) with developmental delays and established disabilities (DD) and their families? The NDIS designed the Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) approach to address the service needs of this population. However, several government reports as well as a limited number of studies have continuously revealed difficulties with its implementation.

A Pilot Investigation of Post School Options for Young People with Intellectual Disability (Jun-20 Issue)

The advent of early childhood intervention, deinstitutionalisation, and later the inclusion movement, drew community attention to the rights and needs of children and adults with a disability. Parents began to keep their children with intellectual disabilities in the family home, providing them with the same experiences of family and community life as their children without disabilities. Many children, who would have been institutionalised up until the 70s and 80s, are now receiving early intervention support and have access to government and non-government schools, with many being educated in mainstream schools or classrooms.

Designing Research of Consequence for Students with Disability (Mar-21 Issue)

Teachers of students with and without disability monitor student progress and undertake informal research every day as they assess student knowledge and skill, interpret results, design and implement programs, and evaluate learning and development (Forbes et al., 2011). Although educational researchers may conduct more formal and complex research, informal teacher research can be formalised through investigations that aim to improve knowledge and practice that result in positive outcomes for students and schools (Hendricks, 2006). Regardless of the research being conducted, any investigation that involves students with disabilities requires some careful decisions to be made in the planning and design in order to ensure the generation of valid and useful outcomes. Among these decisions are: selecting socially valid treatment measures, considering the whole person, and making appropriate methodological choices.

Assisting Teachers and Families in Decision-Making Regarding Questionable and Pseudoscientific Interventions (Sep-19 Issue)

Teachers of students with and without disability monitor student progress and undertake informal research every day as they assess student knowledge and skill, interpret results, design and implement programs, and evaluate learning and development (Forbes et al., 2011). Although educational researchers may conduct more formal and complex research, informal teacher research can be formalised through investigations that aim to improve knowledge and practice that result in positive outcomes for students and schools (Hendricks, 2006). Regardless of the research being conducted, any investigation that involves students with disabilities requires some careful decisions to be made in the planning and design in order to ensure the generation of valid and useful outcomes. Among these decisions are: selecting socially valid treatment measures, considering the whole person, and making appropriate methodological choices.

Pay Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain: The Potential of The Wizard & Emerald City! The NCCD, Adjustments, UDL oh my... (Dec-19 Issue)

During reflection of this classic, it became apparent to me that the Wizard was genuinely a ‘good man, gone bad’, swept up by the potential of what he thought he needed to do, versus what he should do, and then what he was willing to do (or not do)! I think the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data (NCCD) is a ‘good man’ and we need to make sure that ‘he’ doesn’t go bad! My question is what ‘should’ we do in collection of our data and implementation of ‘funding’ resources.

Publication Summaries

Summary of Journal Article | Preparing Australian Special Educators: Courses and Content (Jun-23 Issue)

Australian Journal of Teacher Education

The postgraduate courses in special and/or inclusive education offered at Australian universities were examined to determine what is being taught in preparation for a qualification in special education. With no national professional standards in Australia for special educators, the content analysis was based on high leverage practices that were identified as desirable in the Australian and international literature and the Expert Panel approved InSpEd standards.

The study sought to determine:
* What postgraduate courses in special and/or inclusive education were offered by Australian universities?
* How were the courses structured?
* What content was included and how well did it align with recommended content?

The Long-Run Impacts of Special Education, Ballis and Heath, 2021 (Jun-22 Issue)

American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 2021

Across Australia, there has been a deliberate movement to discredit the role of special education (SE) programs in educating students with disabilities. Many policy planners, researchers and educators in Australia feel that inclusive schooling is the only option for educating all students with disabilities. However, recent research (Ballis & Heath, 2021) challenges the notion of abolishing SE programs for students with disabilities, including students with less severe disabilities such as learning, behavioural and emotional difficulties. Although the study was conducted in the USA, the findings have significant implications in Australia.

Analysis and Critique of the Advocacy Paper 'Towards Inclusive Education: A Necessary Process of Transformation' (Mar-22 Issue)

Australian Journal of Special and Inclusive Education 2021

A number of individuals and disability advocacy groups in Australia argue for full educational inclusion for all students with a disability. Their arguments are often based on human rights positions such as the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. As well as social justice arguments, proponents often claim that research supports full inclusion for all.

There are recognised difficulties in interpreting the research literature on inclusion. Researchers approach from different theoretical perspectives and definitions of inclusion. There are also differences in outcome measures, participants and education contexts. Research comparing different settings is also problematic in that it is difficult to ensure that student populations are comparable. It should also be acknowledged that some research is of poor quality.

One advocacy paper that has been influential in Australia is that produced by Children and Young People with Disability (CYDA) (Cologon, 2019). This paper, which advocates strongly for full inclusion for all children with a disability and claims research support for this position, was the focus of our analysis. We looked specifically at the sources that were used in this paper and the extent to which those sources provided conclusive evidence for the claims made about full inclusion.