What are the educational journeys of B.C. students with special needs? UBC team wants to know

UBC researchers are speaking to parents and caregivers about the most important aspect of the educational journey for students with special needs. Yogainmyschool

Correction: a previous version of this story quoted Jennifer Lloyd as saying there was no information when it comes to understanding special needs students’ educational journeys over time. In fact, she said there was limited information.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) have launched a survey asking parents about what they believe are the most important things researchers need to know, when it comes to better understanding the educational experiences of their children with special needs.

Jennifer Lloyd, a PhD and research associate in the school of nursing at UBC, said she and her colleague Jennifer Baumbusch launched a survey on May 3 after they noticed information in the research literature relating to the educational experiences with students with special needs was lacking depth.

She said there was limited information when it came to grade-to-grade transitions, moving to homeschooling or even the rate of graduation.

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According to the Ministry of Education, about 61,000 students of the 563,000 kids enrolled in B.C. public schools have special needs, up from about 58,000 two years ago.

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“What we’ve noticed is there tends to be an ongoing trend when researchers conduct research involving the public,” Lloyd said. “It typically goes something like this: researchers identify gaps in the research literature on a particular topic, then they identify their research questions based on those gaps, and then they implement the research.”

This survey, however, won’t follow that typical structure, Lloyd said. Instead it would be about talking with people that live with or work most closely with school-age children with special needs.

“In the survey, we’ve asked parents, grandparents, caregivers, healthcare professionals, and so forth, to comment on what they believe to be the most important aspects of the school-age experiences of children with special needs.  And we are conducting this survey with the overarching goal of improving understanding of the educational journeys of school age children with special needs,” she said.

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As one example, Lloyd explained that children should ideally move in school at a rate of 1 grade level per year, but said that is “not always the case” of some kids with special needs.

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“In gifted students for example, which is a form of a special needs, they can sometimes move at an accelerated pace and they can, in theory, go between grades faster,” Lloyd said. “But we can also find the opposite.  Some children move at a slower pace, meaning it takes them much longer to get through the school system.”

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She explained the survey had only just begun, but said it was a way to gain a better understanding of what experiences parents and other caregivers believe are the most important for the research community to better understand about their children with special needs.

“This is a public survey and we welcome all opinions because at the end of the day, sometimes the most exciting research ideas come from the people who live with and work most closely with the children themselves.”

You can find the online survey here. 

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