Jeg er med i forskergruppa "Spesialpedagogikk og tidlig innsats".
Ph.d. project (2021 - 2025): Inclusion and special educational assistance in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC).
This ongoing Ph. D. project has a qualitative case study approach and aims to investigate opportunities and barriers in the field of tension between inclusion and special educational assistance for children with special educational needs (SEN) in early education and care (ECEC). Various data sources will shed light on the research question, including expert assessments interviews with pedagogical leaders and special educators in ECECs, as well as interviews parents. Additionally, participatory observations have been carried out. The primary aim is to uncover new insights into how special educational assistance can promote (or inhibit) inclusion, participation, and sense of belonging for children receiving special educational assistance.
Inclusion is a fundamental principle of Norwegian education policy, and the ambition is for ECEC to be an inclusive arena for all children, including children with SEN (Ministry of Education and research, 2011). There are complex relationships between inclusion and strengthening the mainstream provision on one hand, and the individual right to special educational assistance on the other. This dynamic balance between inclusion and special educational measures has been described as a field of tension or a dilemma (Solli, 2010). The challenges encountered by ECEC in terms of including children with disabilities have also been metaphorically described as “Janus-faced” (Fylling, 1998), which signifies the presence of two contradicting aspects. Like Janus having two faces looking in opposite directions, the term highlights the dilemma involved in managing both special educational measures and inclusion for children with SEN in ECEC (Solli, 2010). Despite their intention to provide equal opportunities for children with SEN, special educational measures can unintentionally create barriers that hinder their sense of belonging within the ECEC community (Fylling, 1998; Nordahl, 2018; Solli, 2010). This dynamic creates a dilemma between special educational assistance and inclusion (Åmot, 2014, 2018). An expert group evaluated the provision for children with SEN in Norwegian ECECs in 2018 and found significant variations in quality, with children in low-quality ECECs being particularly vulnerable. The group recommended a shift in focus from the child´s challenges to the ECEC´s responsibility for care and support and noted that some aspects of special educational assistance can be stigmatizing and socially exclusive (Nordahl, 2018). On one hand, special educational assistance can contribute to enhancing children´s individual development and learning, which can promote social participation and a sense of belonging. On the other hand, special educational assistance can lead to stigmatization and limit children´s participation in the mainstream provision (Nordahl, 2018).
The overarching research question guiding this study is:
How can special educational assistance promote (or inhibit) inclusion for children with SEN in ECEC?