Self-concept, social position and social participation of pupils with SEN in mainstream primary schools
Drawing on a recent research project, this paper questions the literature's dominant representation of children with special educational needs (SEN) as holding negative perceptions of themselves and being socially isolated. The study examined dimensions of pupils' self-concept and their social position in their class network. Contrary to previous research, pupils with SEN were found to hold positive perceptions in all assessed domains of self-concept and, notably, they felt good about their academic performance, and they felt socially accepted by their classmates. With regard to their social position, children with SEN were found to be less popular and to have fewer friends than their non-SEN peers. Nevertheless, they had formed some positive relationships, they were equally likely to be members of a social cluster, and they were no more likely to be isolated than their non-SEN peers. This evidence is supplemented with teacher accounts that provide a greater understanding of the nature of social interaction and quality of friendships in their classes. Finally, the paper concludes that experiencing SEN alone is not a determining factor of social isolation and argues that schools should aim at enhancing the self-image and reducing the marginalisation of all pupils regardless of their SEN or non-SEN classification.