Meeting fears and concerns: Perceptions regarding the inclusion of students who are medically fragile in the early childhood classroom
Mancini, Kathryn Gumfory
MetadataShow full item record
Early childhood classrooms are currently experiencing an increase in the inclusion of students who are medically fragile. Although the preceding Statement is true, very little research exists on the inclusion of students who are medically fragile, particularly in the early childhood classroom. The escalation of inclusion opportunities can be attributed to advances in medical technology that have allowed for longer life spans of students who are medically fragile, as well as increased opportunities for entrance into the public school systems. As students who are medically fragile are increasingly entering the early childhood classroom, the need for exploration of the subject grows. This instrumental case study examines attitudes qualitatively by asking, "What are various perspectives on including students who are medically fragile in the early childhood general classroom?" Perceptions of early childhood teachers, special education teachers, school personnel, administrators, and parents were obtained in order to address this question. Data was collected through observations, semistandardized interviews, and structured interviews. Subjects from one exclusive early childhood campus were asked to voluntarily participate in the study. Forty-seven people elected to take part in the structured interview process, with approximately one-quarter of the total contributors randomly selected to participate in the semistandardized interview process. Data was examined through content analysis, and the following themes emerged from the findings: (1) analyzation of data revealed that teachers, school personnel, and parents had knowledge of theories of inclusion, but did not know how to effectively implement inclusion practices for medically fragile children in the classroom; (2) school personnel had little knowledge on the eligibility criteria for medically fragile students and were unsure how to successfully include those students in the general early childhood classroom; (3) teacher apprehensions were expressed regarding liability and time issues; and (4) surprisingly little concern was voiced about student success in the classroom. Based on the findings from data collected, several recommendations can be made. Training should be provided to early childhood educators, school personnel, and parents regarding inclusion and specific disabilities. Differences and similarities among various special needs should be explained in an easily understandable format. Educators and parents must be given opportunities to interact with students who are medically fragile, to gain knowledge and experience. Finally, support systems must be put in place throughout the school if inclusion of students who are medically fragile is to be a successful venture.