Stereotypy in New Zealand children who are blind: an investigation using mixed methods

Gilmour, Elaine (2014) Stereotypy in New Zealand children who are blind: an investigation using mixed methods. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Many children who are blind regularly display stereotypic behaviour. Stereotypic behaviour is defined as persistent, predictable, pervasive, involuntary, repetitive movements of objects or body parts. The movements range from behaviours that are mild, in that there is no adverse sequelae, to problem behaviours that interfere with development and learning, to challenging behaviours that result in damage to property, injury to the child or others, and to community exclusion. Stereotypic behaviours, therefore, have the potential to seriously inhibit the child with vision impairment's educational opportunities, particularly in inclusive education settings.

A comprehensive survey of the literature determined that to date no New Zealand research into stereotypic behaviour in children who are blind has been conducted. In addition to there being no prevalence figures, no information could be found about how stereotypic behaviour might affect the education of these children when they attend inclusive education facilities in New Zealand. Also of concern was the distinct lack of information detailing which educational approaches are most effective and culturally appropriate for the New Zealand context. This lack of research information occurs within a context of educational policies and political rhetoric, namely the Education Act of 1989, Special Education 2000, and Special Education 2010. The tenor of this legislation emphasises an on-going commitment to increasing inclusive education practices while simultaneously raising educational achievement, especially for learners with special needs.

The research began with a quantitative study to provide a comprehensive, up-to-date set of prevalence figures. Fifty-nine responses were received from the 117 parents surveyed, thirty-five of whom reported stereotypic behaviour in their children. Analysis of the data offered detailed information on the prevalence, type, duration and contexts of the stereotypy. The majority of learners who are blind displayed a number of stereotypic behaviours, with those involving the hands/arms being the most common.

From the survey data, five learners were identified and qualitative case studies conducted. Data collection included interviewing the child's Resource Teacher: Vision (RTV), examining pertinent documentation and observing the learner in a range of relevant contexts. This information was then related to the individual learner's current functioning levels in respect to the Key Competencies in the New Zealand Curriculum, especially socialisation skills.

During the progress of the research, the researcher worked in middle management in Vision Education. A number of measures were introduced in order to account for the researcher being an insider researcher. To reduce possible bias and promote reliability and validity during the quantitative phase, the survey was independently managed, and the analysis undertaken using electronic software. In the qualitative phase of the study, to assist with credibility and trustworthiness, triangulation of data occurred. This entailed the sharing of interview transcripts with all participating specialist teachers, the keeping of a journal of observations for each learner and the critical and systematic analysis of all documentation. Systematic reflection throughout this second phase aimed at ensuring that insider knowledge did not impact on the authenticity of the inquiry.

Qualitative results revealed that despite the five case study learners being enrolled in inclusive schools, they were not actually receiving an inclusive education, with the majority of their program being provided by the RTV. Also, the five learners were not functioning at age-appropriate levels; with a substantial lag identified in the two key competencies; 'Relating to Others' and 'Participating and Contributing'.

Although generalisation from the qualitative data is not possible, a number of observations and themes are notable. This research suggests that a concerning number of learners in New Zealand who are blind and who display stereotypic behaviour are being marginalised within their inclusive environments. This situation raises serious questions regarding the way the philosophy of inclusive practice, together with policies and legislation are being enacted within the New Zealand education system. It is apparent that the responsibility for some learners who are blind, and who display stereotypy, is still held by the specialist teachers who provide teaching and learning in exclusive social environments. This study indicates that in order for learners who are blind and who display stereotypic behaviour, to reach their potential, to experience reciprocity of social interaction and personal empowerment, placement in social environments such as regular classrooms that are representative of society, is critical. Inclusive practice requires enlightened educators to develop their knowledge of this disordered behaviour in order to facilitate change. Stereotypic behaviour in children who are blind can no longer be the "elephant in the room". While this mixed methods research helps to fill the gap in the education literature on stereotypic behaviour in New Zealand children who are blind, it also raises questions that require further research.

Item ID: 40708
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: blind children; blind; blindness; care; children with disabilities; disabilities; education; mixed methods; New Zealand; special education; special needs education; stereotypic behavior; stereotypic behaviour; stereotypic movement disorder; stereotypy; visual impairment; visually impaired
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Publications arising from this thesis are available from the Related URLs field. The publications are:

Gilmour, Elaine S. (2013) What is stereotypic behaviour? A brief overview of the research literature. Journal of the South Pacific Educators in Vision Impairment, 6 (1). pp. 71-78.

Date Deposited: 14 Oct 2015 01:31
FoR Codes: 13 EDUCATION > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130312 Special Education and Disability @ 100%
SEO Codes: 93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9399 Other Education and Training > 939907 Special Needs Education @ 100%
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