Self-perceived social function among disabled children in regular classrooms.
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Disabled children represent an important "at-risk" group for emotional and behavioral problems. This study determined how they assess their own social function in regular classrooms and compared them with their able-bodied peers. School principals identified 60 visibly disabled children who were integrated into regular classes for at least 50% of the time. A comparison group of 56 randomly selected, same-gender classmates was identified. Children completed the Perceived Competence Scale and a classroom sociometric scale. Parents and teachers were asked to rate each child's social function. Disabled children rated themselves lower on physical competence (mean = 2.53 vs 2.92, p = .002) but not on social or cognitive competence. However, disabled children had fewer friends and scored lower on the classroom sociometric measure than did their able-bodied classmates (mean = 2.06 vs 2.39, p = .01). There was no difference between disabled and control children when social function was assessed by parents or teachers. For all children two variables were significantly associated with the child's self-perceived social competence: the child's self-perceived physical competence (R2 = .27) and the peer sociometric rating (R2 = .13). Teacher perception (R2 = .35) and self-perception (R2 = .10) of social function were most strongly associated with the perception of peers. In both cases whether the child was disabled contributed little to the observed association. These findings support the importance of peers in the successful social function of children and suggest that teachers can have an impact on how children are perceived by other children.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)
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