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Promoting the Inclusion of Children with Special Educational Needs in Ireland

Introduction:
Research is about curiosity and inquiry which is conducted in a critical spirit. It is a process of systematic inquiry involving an explicit, systematic approach to finding things out, often through a process of testing out preconceptions. (www.hampshire.edu, 2018)
Research, in early years, is critical to provided information to professionals to help them achieve the highest quality of care they can provide to children. Research carried out by governmental officials has led to recent emphasis the needs of funding and assistance in the early years sectors across all of Ireland. From finding due to research, the Government and early years professional can now provide much-needed insights into the experiences of children with SEN and how to support them. It has resulted in increases in funding, government initiatives, course providers and the introduction of new policies to the sector in order to improve the quality of early childhood education. It was not the intention of the researcher however, to make generalisations but rather to portray the reality of inclusive education as experienced by a chosen group of participants, in this way allowing the reader to explore more “subjective patterns of personal, group or organisational experience” (Davies 2007, p.148).

Research Rationale:
Inclusion of children with disabilities in early childhood and how the government has become aware of the needs of the children with disabilities and their integration into early years settings.
The aim of this research is to promote the inclusion of children with special educational needs in the early years sector in Ireland. The aim behind this research is to highlight them importance of the efforts made by the Government, not just in recent years, but in the past and continuously to support children with SEN in early years. In recent decades increasing emphasis has been placed on rights and inclusion of children in relation to disability. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (1989), for example, states that every child has the right to education, irrespective of disability and without discrimination of any kind. One objective is to explore the concept of inclusive education in early years, by paying particular attention to challenges faced by early years professionals to recognise disabilities over behaviour issues. Uncovering whether the reality of including children with disabilities in mainstream early years setting does in fact correspond with policy on inclusion is a principal objective of this research, as is the issue of the quality of educational provision for all pupils. In particular, this research proposal will focus mainly on the inclusion of children with intellectual disabilities, especially disabilities that are overlooked or interrupted wrong, as it can be suggested that children with intellectual disabilities are more likely to experience educational exclusion and misdiagnosis than those with physical disabilities (Michailakis and Reich 2009; Mousley et al 1993). The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) (2006) emphasises the rights of persons with disabilities to access lifelong learning without discrimination and on an equal basis with others, through reasonable accommodation of their disabilities (Minou 2011). Ultimately, from both the perspective of the early years professionals and children, challenges can arise if children with SEN can be disruptive causing barriers to achieving inclusion as these children are seen to be too much hard work and unfair on the other children. will be identified and explored, with a view to providing an informative platform for early years professionals and the Government to find ways to help those children with uncommon learning and development issues. Another One of the objectives of this research is to highlight issues professionals have in differencing behaviour problems with underlying misdiagnosed disorders amongst children. The recognition of these disorders can be advocated by the professionals once they are presented with useful information, support and funding from the government. Finally, the last objective is to dissucess the advantages and disadvantages of children with SEN attending mainstream early years settings and the effect it has on those around them.

Literature Review
This section will review literature related to the area of education of children with disabilities and special educational needs, with particular reference to inclusive education within the mainstream early years system. Matters pertaining the efforts made by the government will be investigated and debate surrounding the area of inclusive education for children with special educational needs and their impact on others will be examined. Reviewing issues and concerns that arise for parents of children with disabilities and the parents of the other children and for teachers who are responsible for implementing an inclusive environment will be highlighted. The literature review will also examine the challenges and barriers that exist, discussing the positive or negative outcomes of mainstreaming inclusion and the impact on successfully achieving an inclusive education system for all children.
Are children being misdiagnosed, affecting their rights and inclusion in the early years?
Often children across Ireland being misdiagnosed due to their behaviour. Children tend to misbehave or lash out when they are frustrated or feel as though they are not being understood. Early years professionals do not have the acquired time that needs to be given to child to recognise other problems that may be the cause of this irrational behaviour. Should the early childhood sector question if maybe there is an underlying problem to this behaviour? Professionals are unwittingly turning a blind eye and not taking the time to observe the child and record why this child may be experiencing negative experiences in their early years, instead, classifying them as disobedient or bold. Behaviours are message, a symptom- not a diagnosis. If professionals do not see below the surface problem and understand the underlying problem in their early years it will be too late. (Kranowitz, 2005). Children are being misdiagnosed due to a lack of knowledge regarding different types of learning disabilities. Professionals need training and support to gain an understanding that even the slighted imbalance of the brain and mind can have a major impact on the child. Unless the underlying problem is addressed the behaviour will not improve. When a professional does not recognise the problem, they may mistake the child’s behaviour or reluctant to participate in ordinary childhood experiences for hyperactivity or behavioural issues. (Kranowitz, 2005). Sensory Processing Disorder, a common but misdiagnosed central nervous problem could be the reason behind uncharacterised behaviours. Children are attending primary school being undiagnosed until they are six or seven. In the early years children brain develops rapidly at a young age, as the brain is more receptive to change, unless the problem is recognised at young age, professionals are anxious that if not treated early, the problem cannot be fixed (Adrienne L. Tierney, 2018) .This presents early childhood professionals with challenges to recognize the difference between behavioural problems and actual sensory processing disorder. From researching, tests can be found to help identify SPD however there is speculation to whether or not these tests are appropriate for such young children.
Subsequently, there are advantages and disadvantages to both the child with disabilities and those who surround them while trying to support an inclusive practice in an early years setting. But in striving for inclusive education, can be challenging and children can be unnecessarily removed from an early years setting? Inclusion in principle is the right sentiment but, at best, it can come at a high price and, at worst, it can be a complete injustice. Children are individuals so the solution needs to be individual. There are plenty of examples of children with SEN who are successfully integrated in mainstream schools to the benefit of themselves and their peers. Numerous efforts are being made, as mentioned above, to support children with SEN in an mainstream setting, but if professionals and parents want children with SEN to have the same opportunities to succeed as others, there should be guilt about admitting they may need a different environment in which to do this (the Guardian, 2018). Furthermore, it is the responsibility is to all children equally in an early years sector, not just those with SEN. Critically- we are left to question, if inclusion requires a child to be excluded from the same experiences and boundaries as everyone else just to remain on the premises, then is it actually inclusion.
Overtime, The Government has invested more time and money to help support children with special educational needs in the early years.
Following the Budget in 2016, The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr James Reilly introduced a new government-funded programme aimed to provide support for children with disabilities. He states that supports to enable children with disabilities fully participate in free pre-school in mainstream settings alongside their peers (formulary.ie, 2018.) the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 and provides a framework for developing the strong partnerships between parents, schools, Local Education Authorities, health and social services and voluntary organisations that are crucial to success in removing barriers to participation and learning. Unfortunately, like many countries, Ireland’s system of education involved segregation of schooling for children classified as ‘handicapped’. Generally, these children were sent to special schools or institutions (Lodge and Lynch 2004). However, international trends and the growing debate around integration versus segregation have influenced significant change in Ireland in recent years (Lodge and Lynch 2004). Critically – as mentioned above, many children don’t have a formal diagnosis when they start pre-school or get over looked and do not get a diagnosis until primary school. Following the Budget in 2016, The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr James Reilly introduced a new government-funded programme aimed to provide support for children with disabilities. He states that supports to enable children with disabilities fully participate in free pre-school in mainstream settings alongside their peers (formulary.ie, 2018.) Luckily, the programme “the seven level programme” set up by the Minister, does not rely on diagnosis, alternatively, focuses on children’s developmental level, their abilities and their needs. (formulary.ie, 2018). AIMS- the Access and Inclusion Model is a model set up to empower professionals to ensure every child can reap the benefit of positive early years. (Aim.gov.ie, 2018).
This is a model of support that is built up around the needs and abilities of each child, and their parents. From this new programme, early years professionals are offered targeted support and provided them with the opportunity to do National training in relation to the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Guidelines, as well as in relation to disability and inclusion more generally.

Research Questions:

The main research question for this proposal is “The importance of Inclusion in the early years.” Questions that can be drawn up from the research present above are “Are children being misdiagnosed, affecting their rights and inclusion in the early years?”, “and “If inclusion requires a child to be excluded from the same experiences and boundaries as everyone else just to remain on the premises, then is it actually inclusion” and
Research Methods:

Unequivocally, choosing an appropriate methodology for a research can enhance the quality of its results. According to Hancock and Algozzine (2006), the selection of a research design is determined by how well it allows full investigation of a particular research question. In order to conduct a fair, non-bias research, the researcher must carefully select the correct methodology, which can portray the results effectively. To undertake this research, the researcher opted to use both qualitative and quantitative research methods. In data collection, the principal of triangulation aims to find various kinds of sources in order to confirm the relevant information (Rahim

Social and Emotional Learning in Schools

Academic and Social Learning
A school or educational institution is a place where children acquire not only academic skills (reading, writing, and applying what they learn in tests and assessments) but also social skills. Even though standardized tests and academic endeavors are still necessary, a child’s’ success in school relies on more than them. The tests determine how the students have mastered the contents the teachers have taught. The scores are typically used by the teachers to identify areas which need improvement to enhance their teaching strategy as well as the students’ learning. Standardized tests and academic endeavors are an unreliable way to measure a child’s success because their performance is usually determined by some social factors in addition to the knowledge and skills they acquire in class.
The world is changing, and teachers need to help students develop skills which they can apply in the fields of specialization and that which can enable them to live with people from different parts of the world. Standardized tests are of value as they determine the academic success of an individual in academic learning. The victory is mostly achieved when one performs well in the trials and academic education. Academic achievement is significant as it is associated with positive values and outcomes. For instance, according to Regier,
Adults who are academically successful and with high levels of education are more likely to be employed, have stable employment, have more employment opportunities than those with less education and earn higher salaries, are more likely to have health insurance, are less dependent on social assistance, are less likely to engage in criminal activity, are more active as citizens and charitable volunteers and are healthier and happier”.
Hence, they give one the confidence to develop essential academic skills which are useful for a student from one level of studies to another.
Standardized tests are designed to measure the ability of students to memorize information. Most of the students come from different backgrounds and have diverse life experiences which may in a way affects their performance. According to Klodell, “none of your achievements or ambitions in life matter, and these tests don’t measure your personality. The people who grade these have no idea who you are as an individual, and what you are capable of”. Some people claim that it is a measurement of intelligence, but it is not. The teachers focus on topics which will be examined in the tests in future while the students always look for a clue from past assignments and exam questions to predict which are likely to be assessed and concentrate on them more than the other concepts. My friend is a teacher in a particular community college, and he entirely concurs with this. She claims that everything she prepares for the lessons in a semester will be of benefit to the students because that is what will be tested at the end of the year. Hence, it is the high time teachers encourage both academic and social learning to the students for them to fit in the changing world.
Social learning is crucial as it provides every learner with an equal opportunity to develop despite their socio-economic differences. The teaching enables an individual to improve both social and emotional intelligence and excel academically. “Intelligence is about more than remembering facts” (Dodge). Furthermore, “a secure and emotionally open family environment supports the development of emotional competencies.” To achieve this, educational institutions should ensure that the students have the chance to flourish through academic and social learning. “Evidence-based SEL (social and economic learning) programming provides opportunities and rewards for positive behavior, greater attachment, engagement, and commitment to school, and better performance and success in school and life” (Cristóvão et al.). Therefore, in addition to academic excellence, a student also acquires values such as caring, being responsible and knowledgeable.
Although the academic and social learning may seem to be different, they share a universal value which is enabling students to acquire the right skills and knowledge which can be of value in future and their daily lives. When a school integrates academic learning with social learning, the academic achievement of the students improves. Due to the values they develop, incidences of lousy behavior reduces, relationships grow, effective communication is enhanced, and the students get along with others well. The classroom environment changes, and this makes them even have group work with the help of the teachers which in turn also boosts their academic and social skills.
Measuring the success of the students in an environment which involves both academic and social learning is done through both formal and informal assessment. The outcomes of the students cannot be measured by only one approach but the incorporation of different strategies which will not only evaluate their academic skills but also their personality and ability. The goal of the success measurement in the two learning methods is to determine the academic and personal growth of a student at the end of a course or lesson. Greater school success is influenced by the competencies they have acquired primarily through the social learning such as “self-awareness, social awareness, self-control, relational skills, and responsible decision making” (Cristóvão et al.) and how they employ them to pass in their formal tests.
Students seem to be academically successful in an area which they are motivated to pursue what they like. The schools value and care for the students and treat them as resources rather than learners. Such a classroom and school environment encourages the students to be confident in what they do and can apply them to the real world. Measuring their success in both academic and social learning can be evaluated with the help of how what they acquired can improve their way of living now and in the future. It can be evident in the way they answer the standardized tests which should also examine what they have understood and how they can apply it to their daily lives.
Works Cited
Cristóvão, Ana M et al. “Social and Emotional Learning and Academic Achievement in Portuguese Schools: A Bibliometric Study” Frontiers in psychology vol. 8 1913. 8 Nov. 2017, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01913
The article explains the importance of social and emotional learning in academic achievement and student development. The authors assert that the learning is gaining populace in the world due to the changing needs and demands which a student should meet. They further explain how social and emotional learning can improve relationships, reduce crime activities and facilitate citizenship. The article also explores the relationship between the adoption of learning in schools and the academic achievement of the students
Dodge, Terri. “Impact of Standardized Testing Emphasis on Teaching and Learning in Kindergarten through 12th Grade in United States Schools: East Tennessee Principals’ Perspectives.” (2007).
It is a study which the researcher investigated the perceptions of standardized testing. It describes the impact of the measurement (both positive and limitations) on teaching and learning. It was based on the aim of the United States to improve academic performance with a heated debate on which strategy should be adopted.
Klodell, Claire. “The Two Words That Make Every Student Cringe.” HuffPost, 2014, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/claire-klodell/standardized-tests_b_5448020.html. Accessed 14 Jan 2019.
It is a blog from Huffington post that primarily describes what standardized tests is, and the contributor provides views on the cons of the tests. The author points out how the standardized tests are irrelevant, biased and unreliable in the current society. The author also criticizes how the school system still finds them useful despite their adverse effects on academic success and personal growth.
Regier, Janelle. “Why Is Academic Success Important?” Saskschoolboards.Ca, 2011, https://saskschoolboards.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/2011SIAST.pdf.
The article explains the importance of academic success in society. The author ascertains that the most successful people, for instance, those who have better and well-paying jobs are academically successful. She also explains the positive values associated with academic success.
Zeidner, Moshe, Richard D. Roberts, and Gerald Matthews. “Can emotional intelligence be schooled? A critical review.” Educational psychologist 37.4 (2002): 215-231. DOI: 10.1207/S15326985EP3704_2
The authors provide a critical review of whether emotional intelligence can be schooled. It also evaluates the role of emotional intelligence in the school and education setting. The article explains that a conducive environment can influence the development of emotional intelligence. Furthermore, it describes the factors one should consider before developing an EI program for it to be effective.

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