Social relationships of pupils with special educational needs in the mainstream primary class: Peer group membership and peer-assessed social behaviour
One of the major aims for the inclusion of pupils with special educational needs (SEN) within the mainstream classroom is to reduce prejudice and increase social interaction among children. Nevertheless, research has consistently shown that pupils with SEN remain less accepted by and may experience greater loneliness than their non-SEN peers. This study explores these issues using a rounded sociometric technique, social cognitive mapping (SCM), combined with peerassessed social behaviours to: (a) determine the degree of membership for pupils with SEN in peer clusters, (b) examine the nature of this participation, and (c) identify behavioural characteristics associated with group affiliation patterns. Participants were 566 pupils drawn from seven British primary schools. Contrary to previous studies, pupils with SEN in this study were found to be equally likely to be members of the friendship clusters of the class and occupied similar levels of network centrality as their non-SEN peers. In keeping with earlier studies, pupils with SEN were more likely to be nominated on anti-social indicators. Specifically, boys with SEN were more frequently perceived as 'rule breakers' while girls with SEN as 'shy/withdrawn'. However, those pupils with the prosocial characteristics of leadership and sportsmanship were well integrated in peer groups. The paper concludes by advocating the development of social interventions that foster such pro-social characteristics thus promoting all children's affiliation in peer groups. © 2010 Taylor & Francis.
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