Participation in day care centres: Conditions for success and institutional prerequisites
Background and aims
The increased efforts in Switzerland to integrate children with disabilities in early education care facilities are the starting point of this research project. The right to participation in society and thus equal access to education and care provisions begins at birth and is an important prerequisite for successful achievement of equality of persons with disabilities. Consequently, children with disabilities have the right of access to preschool care facilities. This poses major challenges to public or private play groups, day care centres, and other providers of early education.
International studies show that all children can benefit from inclusive care settings. Studies have found positive effects on knowledge and attitudes towards disability and on the behaviour and play development of children with disabilities (Odom & Bailey, 2001; Diamond & Huang, 2005). Important conditions for successful integration are support measures tailored to the needs of the children with disabilities and close cooperation between the adults involved. According to Heimlich (2016), for successful integration the following competencies in childcare professionals are fundamental: dealing with heterogeneity, organization of the inclusive group work, development of team work and inclusive conceptions, the forming of regional networks, and including parents.
This research project has two aims: (1) What do interaction and peer contacts, and thus social participation in inclusive day care centres, look like?, and (2) What conditions support successful integration?
With a view to the different systemic levels of effect, the project will address the following research questions:
- Are there differences in the social participation of children with and without disabilities regarding the quantity or quality and the situational and social setting in the daily routine at the day care centre?
- What are the attitudes of the professionals involved towards integration, in cognitive, emotional, and action-oriented respects?
- In the eyes of professionals and of parents, under what configuration of conditions is social participation successful?
- Do subjective theories of configurations of conditions explain the children’s observed social participation and the professionals’ attitudes towards integration?
To investigate the research questions, we will use a sequential/explanatory mixed method procedure. In a first, quantitative phase, we will observe the actual social interactions of children with and without disabilities and survey the professionals on attitudes. Building on that, in the second, qualitative phase, we will conduct problem-centred interviews with professionals and parents to determine what the configurations of conditions (that is, inhibiting and supporting factors) of integration and social participation are in the day care centres.
From the results, needs can be derived that can contribute towards further development of existing efforts towards inclusive care. We will throw light on the needs of children, professionals at the early education care facilities, parents, and early childhood special educators.