It's the small things that count: Making sense of working in a partnership to support the inclusion of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Teaching and Learning
Since the passing of the Education Act (1989) special education policies and documents have promoted partnership as a key component of establishing relevant and inclusive school practices. Professionals and families have been encouraged to work together to resolve issues for children with disabilities. However, little information is available to families and professionals about how to negotiate and achieve authentic partnerships. This thesis makes an important contribution to current knowledge about partnerships by investigating how a group of people (a parent, teacher, paraprofessional and teacher/researcher) make sense of working together to support the inclusion of a student with ASD in his regular school. It is hoped that our descriptions of how we have worked together may help other professionals and families in similar situations. In saying this, the lessons we have learned are ours and are peculiar to the context in which we worked. In New Zealand partnership between professionals and families of children with disabilities is usually enacted through the Individual Education Plan (IEP) process. This study utilises an alternative partnership model, the Quality Learning Circle (QLC). The participants’ learning journeys are described and the experience of partnership for the participants is discussed. Data are drawn from a range of sources to identify those strategies that support, and barriers that hinder, the development of authentic partnerships. Findings identify those conditions that were essential for the partnership in this study to work effectively. Within this research I contrast the key dimensions of the IEP and QLC, showing the IEP process to be wanting. I suggest a partnership model that embraces a dual focus on both the student and those supporting him/her is a more effective tool for supporting the inclusion of children with disabilities. It is argued that there is a lack of recognition in current funding criteria for the difference an effective partnership can make in supporting the inclusion of students ii with severe behavioural challenges. Consideration needs to be given to the costs and issues of ineffective partnerships, with a particular focus on current Ministry of Education practices.