The purpose of the present study was to investigate the relationship between the amount of preschoolers' contact with persons with disabilities and their perceptions of and friendship behaviors toward children with physically identifiable disabilities. Specifically, this study extended the research literature on contact by assessing attitudes and friendship behaviors in a new setting, Reverse Mainstreaming Preschools (RMP). Rafferty and Griffin (2005) suggested that RMPs provide more intense contact with children with disabilities than Mainstreaming Preschools (MP) because typically developing children are in the minority and have more opportunities to interact with peers with disabilities. This study also conceptualized contact differently than previous research that only compared students at MPs and traditional preschools. In this study, contact was operationalized as a continuous variable (number of hours per week of contact with a person with a disability) and as a categorical variable (type of preschool) which provided a broader understanding of contact both inside of and outside of school.
To further explore potential differences between children at preschools that have no students with disabilities to preschools with at least some students with disabilities, the Child Study Center was recoded as a contact school and independent t-tests were conducted to compare their attitudes and friendship behaviors. However, the results were consistent with the previous findings that there was not a statistically significant difference between attitude and friendship behaviors for children at these two types of preschools (ts ranged from −.40 to 1.95, p>.05). Children from preschools with no students with disabilities and from preschools with at least some students with disabilities reported similar levels of fairly positive attitudes and friendship choices towards peers with disabilities. Observations revealed that the amount of social interactions ranged from almost 13% to almost 98% of observation intervals. Overall, the data showed that the children with and without disabilities were in contact and interacting with one another.
The findings of this study indicate no relationship between the amount of contact with individuals with disabilities and preschool children's attitudes and friendship behaviors towards peers with disabilities. The results were consistent across a variety of analyses examining contact from multiple perspectives (attendance in either traditional preschool or RMP, hours of contact per week, number of months in a RMP, and number of family, friends or acquaintances with physical disabilities). Overall, children reported positive attitudes and friendship behaviors towards their peers with disabilities. There were several limitations to the current study (a) limited ethnic and socio-economic status diversity of the sample (b) limited geographic region where data was collected and (c) absence of experimental manipulation or randomization. Directions for future research include using longitudinal and cross-sectional designs to assess the effects of contact over time on attitudes, exploring different ways of measuring preschoolers' attitudes and friendship behaviors towards peers with disabilities, and recruiting a more demographically representative sample of preschoolers in general. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)
|School:||University of Central Arkansas|
|School Location:||United States -- Arkansas|
|Source:||DAI-A 72/01, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Early childhood education, Educational psychology, Special education|
|Keywords:||Children with disabilities, Inclusive education, Mainstreaming, Preschoolers|
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