Experiences of integration from language units to mainstream school for children with specific language impairment
The purpose of this study was to examine the experiences of children with Specific Language Impairment who had integrated from a Language Unit to mainstream school. The aim of the study was to explore the development of the children in the areas of language, academic ability, and psychosocial performance both during and after that period. Data was collected from 40 children in Phase 1 of the study by means of a structured interview schedule (Stone 1991). In Phase 2, the prospective second phase, 7 children were asked to complete the Pictorial Scale of Perceived Competence and Social Acceptance (PSPCSA) (Harter and Pike 1984). In both phases, parents of the children took part in unstructured interviews using a chronological or life history approach advocated by May (1993). Teachers in Phase 1 completed the Teacher Rating Scale (Urwin 1988) and in Phase 2, both language unit and mainstream schoolteachers completed the appropriate section of the PSPCSA. A combination of qualitative and quantitative methodologies was used to access the range of experiences of the children and the views of their parents and teachers. Analysis of the data revealed a lack of planning and preparation on the part of mainstream schools for the children during the short integration process. There was minimal collaboration between language units and mainstream teaching staff. The children's statement of Special Educational Need terminated for the majority after 3 months in mainstream school. No further monitoring of the children's verbal abilities took place after that, although a third of the children had continuing speech and language problems. Despite the general failure of the mainstream system to support these children, those who needed help in academic areas did receive it on an ad hoc basis. Two thirds of the children had help with academic subjects, although teachers rated these children as average. In the second phase, teachers showed more concern over the academic and social abilities of the children. The children saw themselves as no different from their mainstream peers. This finding reflects the sometimes overly optimistic views of children in the younger age groups, although there is some evidence from the study that children can be aware of their verbal limitations much earlier than what is generally held to be the age of self awareness at approximately 8 years. Children with SLI in a mainstream setting continue to have difficulties for several years after integration. Parents in this study frequently expressed the view that they would have liked the children to remain in the language units because of the better quality of education they provided. The value of the study lies in its in depth exploration of parent and child views and experiences of SLI within the education system using a combination of research approaches. Increasing the involvement of parents and children in the educational decision-making process is widely advocated. Understanding child and parent perspectives in this area is therefore of considerable importance.