Creating Socially Supportive Environments for Fully Included Students who Experience Multiple Disabilities

Pam Hunt, Morgen Alwell, Felicia Farron-Davis, Lori Goetz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


This investigation analyzed the effectiveness of an intervention designed to facilitate the social inclusion of three students who experienced significant physical and intellectual challenges and, for two students, dual sensory impairments. The children were full-time members of two first-grade and one fourth-grade classrooms. The individualized intervention package included three major components: (a) provision of ongoing information to classmates about the communication system, adaptive equipment, and educational activities of the students with disabilities in the context of naturally occurring interactions between the students and their classmates or during “club” meetings; (b) identification and utilization of various media that could serve as the basis for interactive exchanges between the focus students and others; and (c) ongoing facilitation by educational staff of social exchanges between students and their classmates through the establishment of a “buddy” system, arrangement of interactive activities across the day, and prompting and interpreting communicative exchanges when necessary. All aspects of intervention were implemented by educational staff including general education and inclusion support teachers, paraprofessionals, and related service personnel. An analysis of the interactive patterns between the focus students and others indicated that when the intervention was fully implemented, there were increases in (a) reciprocal interactions with peers, (b) focus student-initiated interactions, and (c) focus student-initiated interactions that were comments (with no increase in requests or protests). In addition, there were decreases in assistive interactions with paraprofessionals. The social validity of changes in interactive patterns between the focus students and their classmates was established through interviews with the students' friends and their teachers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-71
Number of pages19
JournalResearch and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1996


  • communication
  • inclusion
  • non-handicapper peers
  • peer relationships
  • social interaction


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