Researchers from the Institute of Education, the National Children's Bureau and the London School of Economics, have found that school can have a negative influence on disabled children’s behavioural problems, concluding that more could be done to reduce the challenges these children are facing.
The study also found that the same children consistently presented more conduct problems than their non-disabled peers, particularly in regards to hyperactivity, emotional problems and interacting with other children.
Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the study found that there could be fewer behavioural issues concerning disabled children the in early years if more schools introduced stringent anti-bullying measures and other support systems.
The report said, ‘Our findings suggest that some early school environments may exacerbate behavioural problems for disabled children in ways that cannot solely be solved by learning support because the underlying issue is behavioural rather than cognitive, 'the researchers commented.
‘We need to gain a better understanding of the effects that schools have if we are to develop environments that do not, in effect, disable children further.’
The study also calls for that more support for mothers and fathers of children with an impairment or special educational need.
The researchers believe that the long-term benefits of this could be substantial, as behavioural difficulties are likely to add to disabled children¹s problems and reduce their chances of having a happy and successful adult life.
These conclusions are based on an analysis involving 6,371 English children born in 2000 and 2001 who are being followed by the Millennium Cohort Study.
Philippa Stobbs, assistant director of the Council for Disabled Children, said, ‘These research findings emphasise the urgency with which we need to act. They make it imperative that we focus on improving the learning environment for our youngest and most vulnerable children.’
She added that a key goal of the Children and Families Act, which came into force in September was improved outcomes for children with special educational needs.
Commenting on the findings, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, 'This study clearly highlights the importance of ensuring that children with disabilities or special educational needs are given adequate support in their earliest years.
'However, children’s educational experiences do not start at school at age five. The vast majority of three- and four-year-olds attend some kind of early years provision, and so we would have liked to see the study take into account the impact of pre-school experiences on emotional and behavioural development as well.
'Given that the research found that the behaviour of both disabled and non-disabled children tends to improve between the ages of three and five, before subsequently declining at six, it may well be that schools should be looking to early years providers as examples of good practice in this area.'
It was vital that providers, whether maintained or non-maintained, have a strategic approach to addressing behaviour issues in young children, including those with disabilities or SEN, he added.
'This, alongside a commitment to working in partnership with parents, is key to preventing behavioural and social issues later on in childhood.'
- Convergence or divergence? A longitudinal analysis of behaviour problems among disabled and non-disabled children aged 3 to 7 in England, by Rebecca Fauth (NCB), Samantha Parsons (IOE) and Lucinda Platt (LSE)