Step by Step: Promoting the Social Participation of Kindergarten Students with Disabilities

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    Inclusive education aims for equal academic and social opportunities for students with disabilities. Unfortunately, in practice, the social participation of these students lags behind, partly due to negative attitudes from classmates. The objective of this dissertation was to develop a theoretically underpinned and socially valid educational intervention to enhance the social participation of young students with disabilities and improve the attitudes of their peers.
    To achieve this goal, the intervention "Everyone Belongs!" was (further) developed. This intervention combines reading picture books about disabilities and subsequent group discussions with cooperative learning groups.
    “Everyone belongs!” is theoretically embedded in the Contact Theory, which deems both contact and information essential for promoting social participation. The utility of these intervention components in inclusive education was affirmed through a systematic literature review.
    In the developmental phase, a social validity assessment indicated that kindergarten teachers were predominantly positive about "Everyone Belongs!". They also suggested some improvements such as including a preparatory training for teachers.
    Following adjustments, the effects were examined. The quasi-experimental effect study revealed that 30% of the students with disabilities significantly increased social playtime post-intervention, compared to 12.5% in the control group. While no positive effects were found regarding acceptance or self-declared friendships by peers, "Everyone Belongs!" did have a softening effect on their attitudes.
    The dissertation confirms the applicability of the Contact Theory in inclusive education and advocates for the permanent integration of such interventions into the curriculum.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Groningen
    • Minnaert, Alexander, Supervisor
    • de Boer, Anke, Co-supervisor
    • Kupers, Elisa, Co-supervisor
    Award date1-Feb-2024
    Place of Publication[Groningen]
    Publication statusPublished - 2024

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