School Experiences of Individuals with Down syndrome: Issues Surrounding Inclusion

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MacDonald, Hugh
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Mount Saint Vincent University
Down syndrome is the most common genetic disorder affecting individuals today. Since the 1970s, individuals with Down syndrome have been integrated into regular classroom settings; yet, little is known about how effectively efforts to apply the inclusion model are supporting this unique population of students. The voices of those potentially affected are also largely absent from what literature does exist, indicating a need to explore the school experiences of students with Down syndrome, in their own words. The purpose of this study was to offer this population of students, and their families, the chance to share their thoughts and memories of their school experiences in order to gain insight into how well the inclusion model has supported their unique social and academic needs. A qualitative approach was chosen in order to gain a more in-depth look into these experiences, and to recognize and value voices that are not often heard. Participants in this study were four young adults with Down syndrome (one male and three females ranging in age from 20 to 32) and five parents. All student participants grew up and attended school in the same rural town in Nova Scotia (one student participant moved to said town in late elementary school). A qualitative methodology was utilized, and as such, each participant took part in a semi-structured interview in which they were asked to share their experiences of attending school (for student participants) and of watching and supporting their child throughout school (for parent participants). Thematic analysis was used to identify emerging themes in the data. Participant data was divided into two groups, Parents and Students. Primary themes that were identified from the Parent data were: 1) School; 2) Parenting a student with Down syndrome; 3) Extra-curricular activities; 4) Friendship; 5) Bullying; and 6) Speech difficulties. Primary themes identified form the student data were: 1) School; 2) Down syndrome; 3) Friendships; 4) Bullying/teasing; and 5) Extra-curricular activities. There were several subcategories that emerged from each major theme. These themes provide a rich, detailed insight into the positive and negative experiences of students with Down syndrome and their parents as they navigated the school system.
Down Syndrome , Education - Nova Scotia , Education - Inclusivity