If a child has need of special support and requires assistance at preschool or school, it is the fault of the child.
This was the answer of roughly 84 per cent of the preschool teachers and nearly 95 per cent of the assistants in Swedish preschools in response to the question. Very few blame poor group dynamics or other factors external to the child per se as triggering the need for help.
The Swedish researcher Gunilla Lindqvist at Dalarna University College in Sweden has made a large-scale survey, studying the views of teaching staff at preschools and schools on working with children in need of special support.
The results surprised her. The majority believes that medical diagnoses should be required before a child gets special support. Many also believe that a child’s family background is an important reason for why such needs arise. At the bottom of the list were factors specific to the preschool or the school.
‘The surprising thing is that so few people think there might be a problem with the preschool teacher, teacher or the group, if a child is difficult’, says Lindqvist.
Another result is that only the special education teachers themselves are of the opinion that preschools and schools must work preventively. About 71 per cent of the kindergarten teachers believed that the special education teachers were primarily intended to help meet the needs of the individual child.
‘If the preschool staff sees the child as the problem, the consequence may be that the child also experiences itself as a problem.’
PRESCHOOL IS MORE INCLUSIVE
‘Preschool teachers and head teachers have a somewhat more inclusive perspective on children with behavioural issues than schools do. Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go before we have full inclusion’, comments Lindqvist.
‘Schools have a long tradition of singling out children who don’t live up to the school’s standards for different reasons. However, in recent years, the rhetoric has shifted so that preschools and schools are supposed to accommodate everyone. Accordingly, it is surprising that we haven’t made more progress towards achieving full inclusion.
‘It is important that children feel included at preschool, and also in the long term’, confirms the researcher.
‘If the preschool staff sees the child as the problem, the consequence may be that the child also experiences itself as a problem. That can impact the child’s opportunities to develop and learn. That means that preschool may be creating a problem, rather than solving one.’