Teacher responses to children's spontaneous reactions to differences in their classmates with Down Syndrome: Implications for teaching and learning
Belonging as a valued member of the class, irrespective of impairment is critical for optimal socio-emotional and cognitive gains. In classrooms involving children with identifiable impairments such as Down Syndrome (DS), teachers and teacher-aides are faced with the issue of how to explain the child’s impairment-related differences when classmates ask questions or comment. This paper which describes a qualitative study based on the data of 3 boys with DS (aged 5-6) entering primary school, investigated the kinds of responses peers made about the children publicly and how their respective teachers and teacher aides responded. The boys, their classmates and teacher/teacher-aides were observed using continuous narrative recordings during their classroom, play and lunchtime activities. Results indicated that there were three distinct categories of teacher/teacher-aide responses and that these were related to qualitative differences in interactions between the child with DS and his classmates. How children learnt to frame the child with DS affected not only their interactions with him, but also the quality of educational learning outcomes for the child with DS. Implications for teachers will be explored.