A Randomized Control Trial of Shifting Perceptions to Enhance Inclusive School Education of Student with Disability through Reasonable Adjustments

Background: Within a Social Model of Disability (SMD), inclusion occurs when reasonable adjustments are made to enable access to mainstream processes and structures by accommodating to needs that arise from a person’s impairment. Within the education context, expectations that schools will implement reasonable adjustments for students with disabilities are embedded within legislation and policy. Current initiatives support teacher judgements about the level of adjustments required by students, but not in designing quality reasonable adjustments for individual students to ensure their inclusion in school curriculum and social activities. The aim of this study was to test the premise that embedding the SMD into training, which also addresses the provision of real and authentic learning opportunities, will improve the quality of reasonable adjustments designed by stakeholders in the education of students with disability.

Methods: A Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) was implemented. Twenty-four participants selected across primary school staff, allied health professionals providing supports to school students, and parents of children with disabilities attending mainstream primary schools were randomly allocated to intervention and control groups. Scenarios were prepared for students with varied types of disabilities and education needs. Participants responded to each scenario by suggesting three reasonable adjustments during interviews conducted pre - and post intervention (two student scenarios), and at 1 month follow-up (the same two scenarios with a third added to evaluate generalisation). The intervention group completed an on-line education module comprising background information on inclusive education, the SMD, and developing reasonable adjustments for two student scenarios, which were not part of the data collection. Reasonable adjustments suggested by participants were entered into an on-line survey platform for ratings by a panel, which included two researchers and an additional four experts who had been trained in using a newly developed and trialled tool - Reasonable Adjustments for Inclusive Education (RAIE).

Results: By the end of the study, 144 reasonable adjustments will have been generated for the pre- and post-intervention conditions, and 216 for the 1-month follow-up. These data will be analysed using multivariate analysis to determine if intervention results in improved quality of reasonable adjustments compared to no-intervention.

Conclusions: The on-line module will be available to support the design of reasonable adjustments for students with disabilities. It will provide a resource for education staff, allied health professionals and families, and a basis for further work into developing authentic and inclusive learning opportunities that address individual student need.