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Research in Developmental Disabilities 30 (2009) 397407

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Research in Developmental
Disabilities

A comparison of the social competence of children with


moderate intellectual disability in inclusive versus
segregated school settings
Sharon Hardiman a,*, Suzanne Guerin b, Elaine Fitzsimons a
a
St. John of God Carmona Services, 111 Upper Glenageary Road, Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, Ireland
b
School of Psychology, University College Dublin, Ireland

A R T I C L E I N F O A B S T R A C T

Article history: This is the rst study to compare the social competence of children
Accepted 16 July 2008 with moderate intellectual disability in inclusive versus segregated
Received 4 July 2008 school settings in the Republic of Ireland. A convenience sample
Keywords: was recruited through two large ID services. The sample comprised
School inclusion 45 children across two groups: Group 1 (n = 20; inclusive school)
Social competence and Group 2 (n = 25; segregated school). Parents and teachers
Intellectual disability completed the Strengths and Difculties Questionnaire and the
Adaptive Behaviour ScaleSchool: 2nd edition. A series of 2  2
ANOVAs were carried out on social competence scores using
educational placement type (inclusive vs segregated school) and
proxy rater (parent vs teacher) as the independent variables. Key
ndings indicated that children in inclusive schools did not differ
signicantly from children in segregated schools on the majority of
proxy ratings of social competence. This supports the belief that
children with intellectual disabilities can function well in different
educational settings. Present ndings highlight the importance of
utilising the functional model of ID when selecting and designing
school placements for children with moderate ID.
2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction

The inclusive model of education (or inclusion) presumes that all students, including those with
intellectual disability (ID), are educated in the general education classroom (Wehmeyer & Lee, 2007).

* Corresponding author.
E-mail address: sharon.hardiman@sjog.ie (S. Hardiman).

0891-4222/$ see front matter 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.ridd.2008.07.006
398 S. Hardiman et al. / Research in Developmental Disabilities 30 (2009) 397407

Its focus is closely aligned with the functional model of ID (see American Association on Mental
Retardation denition of mental retardation; AAMR, 2002) in that they both strive to abandon the
traditional notion of levels of ID based on IQ scores and instead focus on environmental (or school-
wide) changes required to support the needs of each individual (Wehmeyer & Lee, 2007). This model is
current best practice in the education of individuals with and without ID (Bergsson, Wood, & Quirk,
2003; Harris, 2002). However, while inclusion has been internationally accepted both philosophically
and legally (Wang & Baker, 1985/86), its practical implementation has had very variable success
(Guetzloe, 1999). In Ireland, for example, only 510% of individuals with ID are educated in their local
inclusive schools (Department of Education & Science, 1993).
A key desired outcome of inclusive schooling for children with ID is the promotion of social
competence (Laws, Taylor, Bennie, & Buckley, 1996). Social competence is a multidimensional
construct (Gresham & Reschly, 1988) that encompasses the social, emotional, cognitive and
behavioural skills that an individual needs for successful social adaptation (Welsh & Bierman, 1998).
Global delays in the skill components of social competence are common in children with ID (Kasari &
Bauminger, 1998). The enhancement of social competence is important for this population as abilities
in this area have been found to be crucial to the overall adjustment and quality of life of the individual
with ID (Chadsey-Rusch, DeStefano, OReilly, & Gonzalez, 1992; Leffert & Siperstein, 1996).
It has been posited (e.g. Kasari & Bauminger, 1998) that inclusive educational settings promote the
social competence of children with ID. One of the arguments for this position is that models of
appropriate social behaviour are more readily available within the inclusive education classroom. In
addition, it has been argued that the inclusive school offers a richer social and language environment
in which to develop friendships with neighbourhood peers, thus increasing opportunities for social
interactions and modelling at home as well as in school (Gurlanick, 1978, 1984; Laws et al., 1996).
Many (e.g. Hornby, 1999), however, still hold the view that the segregated education continuum of
services offers unique advantages (including small class sizes, specially trained teachers, emphasis on
functional skills and individualised instruction and procedures; Kauffman & Hallahan, 1993). In
addition, concerns continue to be expressed about the potentially negative impact that being placed
with much more able students will have on the emotional well-being and self-esteem of students with
ID (Freeman & Alkin, 2000).
One of the barriers to the inclusion of children with ID in inclusive schools has been the lack of
empirical studies demonstrating the benets of such inclusion (e.g. Fuchs & Fuchs, 1995; Wang &
Baker, 1985/86). Results of the limited number of cross-sectional studies that do exist (e.g. Fryxell &
Kennedy, 1995; Hunt, Farron-Davis, Beckstead, Curtis, & Goetz, 1994; Kennedy, Shukla, & Fryxell,
1997) indicate that students with ID attending regular schools have either similar or signicantly
better social abilities than their segregated counterparts. Meyer and colleagues (Cole & Meyer, 1991;
Fisher & Meyer, 2002) carried out the only two longitudinal studies available in the literature assessing
actual gains made in social and developmental functioning by students with ID in inclusive and
segregated school settings. The earlier study found signicant gains in social competence for the
inclusive group while the later study found signicant gains on a developmental measure for the
inclusive group.
The few empirical studies that do exist, however, are hampered by a number of important
limitations. Firstly, previous studies have tended to include heterogeneous samples of children. For
example, some studies (e.g. Cole & Meyer, 1991; Fisher & Meyer, 2002; Hunt et al., 1994) have
included children with a range of ID (e.g. mild to profound) and other disabilities (e.g. autism, cerebral
palsy, dual sensory impairments). Secondly, most previous studies have employed limited outcome
measures (i.e. use observation exclusively; e.g. Hunt et al., 1994). Thirdly, previous studies have failed
to assess the impact of inclusion beyond the school environment. Finally, the present author failed to
locate previous empirical studies comparing the efcacy of inclusive versus segregated schooling for
children with ID in Ireland.
The main aim of the present study, therefore, was to assess the social competence of children with
moderate ID across inclusive and segregated Irish school settings (i.e. inclusive national (junior)
schools and segregated national (junior) schools). This study aims to investigate childrens social
competence at home (as rated by parents) and at school (as rated by teachers) to answer the two main
research questions:
S. Hardiman et al. / Research in Developmental Disabilities 30 (2009) 397407 399

1. Does the proxy rated social competence of children with moderate ID in inclusive school settings
differ signicantly from that of children with moderate ID in segregated school settings?
2. Do parents and teachers differ in their ratings of social competence of children with moderate ID?

2. Method

2.1. Research design

A complex independent natural groups design was employed to investigate the effect of
educational placement type (inclusive or segregated school) and proxy type (parent and teacher
ratings) on childrens social competence as measured by the Strengths and Difculties Questionnaire
(SDQ) and a modied version of the Adaptive Behaviour ScaleSchool: 2nd Edition (ABS-S:2).

2.2. Participants and sampling

Participants were recruited through two intellectual disability services. In both settings, children
were selected for participation if they met the following criteria: they (1) were aged between 4 and 16
years; (2) had a moderate level of intellectual disability (dened using Diagnostic and Statistical
ManualFourth Edition; American Psychiatric Association, 1994); and (3) did not have a diagnosis of
Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Children were selected for participation in Group 1 if they were attending
an inclusive national (junior) school and in Group 2 if they were attending a segregated national
(junior) school for children with moderate ID.
A total of 141 children met the study criteria. Of these, 49 (35%) children met Group 1 criteria and
92 (65%) children met Group 2 criteria. In total, 45 (32%) children were given parental consent to
participate in the present study. Questionnaires were completed and returned by 37 (82%) parents and
36 (80%) teachers. The mean age of the 45 children was 10.9 years (range = 516 years, S.D. = 3.01) and
31 (69%) were male. Demographic data relating to the individual, family and school characteristics of
each group are presented in Table 1.

2.3. Measures

2.3.1. Demographic questionnaire


This measure was designed by the author and completed by parent(s). It was used to collect
relevant demographic information including age, number of years in present school, number and
types of previous schools attended, amount of additional resources the child receives in school, any
additional disabilities the child has and parent occupations.

2.3.2. Strengths and Difculties Questionnaire (Goodman, 1997, 1999)


The SDQ (Goodman, 1997) consists of 25 statements relating to specic strengths and difculties
faced by the child. Each item is rated on a three-point scale (not true, somewhat true, and certainly
true). The same 25 items are included in questionnaires for completion by the parents or teachers of
416 year olds. These items are divided into ve subscales: Conduct Problems, Emotional Problems,
Hyperactivity, Peer Problems, and Prosocial Behaviour (each containing ve items). Scores on the rst
four subscales are summed to provide a Total Difculties score. The parent and teacher versions of the
extended SDQ (Goodman, 1999) also contain additional items that are summed to produce an overall
Total Impact score. The SDQ has been deemed a valid and reliable measure for children and
adolescents with ID (Emerson, 2005). The SDQ was used to measure facets of childrens behavioural
and social competence as rated by parents and teachers.

2.3.3. Adaptive Behaviour ScaleSchool: Second edition (ABS-S:2) (Lambert, Nihira, & Leland, 1993)
The ABS-S:2 was developed to assess school age (30 to 1811 years) childrens personal and
community independence and aspects of personal and social performance and adjustment
characteristics that are associated with the construct of adaptive behaviour. The current scale is
400 S. Hardiman et al. / Research in Developmental Disabilities 30 (2009) 397407

Table 1
Demographic comparison of individual, family, and school characteristics by group

Group 1 Group 2

Demographics
Total sample (N) 20 25
Full demographic data (N) 17 20

Gender
Male 11 (55%) 20 (80%)
Female 9 (45%) 5 (20%)

Age
Mean (S.D.) 9.6 (2.53) 12.0 (2.97)
Range 514 616

Number of years in school (mean (S.D.)) 3.7 (2.27) 5.3 (3.28)

Additional disabilities
No 14 (82%) 16 (80%)
Yes 3 (28%) 4 (20%)

Attended a different school before


No 14 (82%) 15 (75%)
Mainstream 2 (12%) 1 (5%)
Segregated class 1 (6%) 1 (5%)
Segregated school 3 (15%)

SES (mean (S.D.)) 1.7 (0.69) 3.5 (1.54)

Family type
2-Parent 15 (88%) 14 (70%)
1-Parent 2 (12%) 6 (30%)

Number of siblings (mean (S.D.)) 2.2 (1.58) 1.4 (0.99)

School characteristics
Sample with data (N) 17 20

Number of children in class


Mean (S.D.) 26.8 (4.89) 6.2 (1.15)
Range 1733 48

Number of staff in class (including teacher and assistants)


Mean (S.D.) 1.6 (0.61) 2.5 (0.69)
Range 13 13

divided into two parts. Part One focuses on personal independence while Part Two is concerned with
social behaviour. The ABS-S:2 was normed on 2074 students with mental retardation (or ID). The ABS-
S:2 shows good internal consistency (ranging from 0.80 to 0.98), testretest reliability (ranging 0.85
0.99) and inter-rater reliability (ranging from 0.95 to 0.99) (Lambert et al., 1993). The ABS-S:2 was
edited and retyped (with the permission of the copyright owners PRO-ED) so that it only contained
items relating specically to domains and factors representing social functioning. This revised version
contained three domains (self-direction, responsibility, socialisation) and one factor (Factor C:
Personal-Social Responsibility) from Part One and three domains (social behaviour, conformity,
trustworthiness) and one factor (Factor D: Social Adjustment) from Part Two. This measure was used
to assess facets of childrens social competence as rated by parents and teachers.

2.4. Procedure

Ethical approval was sought and granted from the ethics committees of the relevant services. A
letter of information and consent form were sent to each eligible childs parent(s). All correspondence
to parents was written in appropriate and accessible language. When consent forms were received,
parents were sent three measuresthe demographic questionnaire, the ABS-S:2 and the SDQ.
S. Hardiman et al. / Research in Developmental Disabilities 30 (2009) 397407 401

Teachers were sent the latter two measures. Parents and teachers were requested to return completed
measures to the author in the stamped-addressed envelope provided.

3. Results

3.1. Data analysis

As the SDQ and ABS-S:2 have been shown to be normally distributed among individuals with ID
(Emerson, 2005; Lambert et al., 1993), a series of 2-way ANOVAs were used to compare parent and
teacher ratings on the SDQ and ABS-S:2 across both groups. Due to the repeated component of the
ANOVA, only those children with both parent and teacher measures were included (n = 26). Following
these exclusions, there were 13 children in Group 1 (mean age = 8.96; S.D. = 2.31) and 13 children in
Group 2 (mean age = 10.68; S.D. = 2.72). These groups did not differ signicantly in terms of age
(t = 1.74; d.f. = 1,24; p > 0.05) or gender (x2 = 1.76; p > 0.05).

3.2. ANOVA results for SDQ across proxy and group

Differences between proxy (parent and teacher) SDQ ratings for the two groups (inclusive and
segregated school) were compared using 2-way ANOVAs, repeated on the rst factor (proxy). The
means and standard deviations of parent and teacher ratings for the inclusive and segregated school
groups for each of the standardised scales are presented in Table 2.
The analyses identied a number of differences between the mean scores of inclusive and
segregated school children when rated by parents and teachers on the SDQ (see Table 2). While no
signicant differences were noted for the Emotional Problems, Conduct Problems, Total Impact and
Total Difculties Scales, signicant differences were observed on the Hyperactivity scale, Peer
Problems and Prosocial Behaviour scales. A signicant interaction was noted across parent and teacher
mean scores for the inclusive and segregated school group on the Hyperactivity scale. A plot of the
mean scores was generated (see Fig. 1), which identied a disordinal interaction, and a test of simple
effects was carried out to further examine the nature of the interaction.
The test of simple effects revealed no signicant difference in parent ratings for inclusive and
segregated school children, for parent versus teacher ratings of inclusive children or for parent versus
teacher ratings of segregated school children. However, a signicant difference was found for teacher
ratings across inclusive and segregated school groups (F = 7.65; d.f. = 1,24; p < 0.025), and
examination of the plot suggests that teachers ratings of hyperactivity were higher for inclusive
children than for segregated school children.
In addition to the interaction on the hyperactivity subscale, signicant main effects for proxy were
noted on the SDQ Peer Problems and Prosocial Behaviour scales. Parent ratings of Peer Problems

Fig. 1. Plotted SDQ Hyperactivity problems mean scores across proxy and group showing a disordinal interaction.
402
S. Hardiman et al. / Research in Developmental Disabilities 30 (2009) 397407
Table 2
Mean (standard deviation in parentheses) scores 2  2 ANOVA results for group  proxy results on the SDQ

SDQ scale Parent Teacher Group main effect Proxy main effect Interaction effect

Mainstream (n = 13) Segregated (n = 13) Mainstream (n = 13) Segregated (n = 13)

Total Difculties 10.23 (4.92) 11.85 (4.45) 10.15 (4.14) 10.54 (6.98) F = 0.33 (d.f. = 1,24) F = 0.41 (d.f. = 1,24) F = 0.32 (d.f. = 1,24)
Emotional Problems 1.31 (1.44) 1.54 (1.13) 1.00 (1.35) 2.08 (1.71) F = 2.62 (d.f. = 1,24) F = 0.09 (d.f. = 1,24) F = 1.21 (d.f. = 1,24)
Conduct Problems 1.54 (1.66) 1.69 (1.44) 1.39 (2.43) 1.54 (1.85) F = 0.08 (d.f. = 1,24) F = 0.09 (d.f. = 1,24) F = 0.00 (d.f. = 1,24)
Hyperactivity 4.85 (2.34) 5.00 (2.31) 5.92 (1.49) 4.31 (3.40) F = 0.69 (d.f. = 1,24) F = 0.22 (d.f. = 1,24) F = 4.62* (d.f. = 1,24)
Peer Problems 2.54 (1.66) 3.62 (1.98) 1.85 (1.82) 2.62 (2.33) F = 1.88 (d.f. = 1,24) F = 5.15* (d.f. = 1,24) F = 0.17 (d.f. = 1,24)
Prosocial Behaviour 7.38 (2.06) 8.00 (2.00) 6.23 (2.35) 6.69 (2.84) F = 0.47 (d.f. = 1,24) F = 6.73* (d.f. = 1,24) F = 0.03 (d.f. = 1,24)
Total Impact 1.78 (1.64) 1.60 (1.82) 1.67 (1.87) 1.20 (0.84) F = 0.21 (d.f. = 1,24) F = 0.19 (d.f. = 1,24) F = 0.06 (d.f. = 1,24)
*
Signicant at p < 0.05 level.
S. Hardiman et al. / Research in Developmental Disabilities 30 (2009) 397407 403

differed signicantly from teacher ratings for children from inclusive and segregated schools.
Examination of the means suggests that parent ratings of peer problems were higher than teacher
ratings. Parent ratings of Prosocial Behaviour also differed signicantly from teacher ratings for
children from inclusive and segregated schools and examination of the means suggests that parent
ratings of prosocial behaviour were higher than teacher ratings.

3.3. ANOVA results for ABS-S:2 across proxy and group

Differences between proxy (parent and teacher) ABS-S:2 ratings for the two groups (inclusive and
segregated school) were compared using 2-way ANOVAs, repeated on the rst factor (proxy). The
means and standard deviations of parent and teacher ratings for the inclusive and segregated school
groups for each of the standardised scales are presented in Table 3.
The analyses identied one signicant difference between the mean scores of inclusive and
segregated school children when rated by parents and teachers on the ABS-S:2 (see Table 3). While no
signicant differences were noted for the six Domain (VIIXII) scales and the Factor D (Social
Adjustment) scale, a signicant interaction between group and proxy was noted on the Factor C
(personal-social self-sufciency) scale. A plot of the mean scores was generated (see Fig. 2), which
identied a disordinal interaction, and a test of simple effects was carried out to further examine the
nature of the interaction.
The test of simple effects revealed no signicant difference for teacher ratings across inclusive and
segregated school groups, for parent versus teacher ratings of inclusive children or for parent versus
teacher ratings of segregated school children. A signicant difference was found for parent ratings
across the inclusive and segregated school groups (F = 10.87; d.f. = 1,24; p < 0.025), and examination
of the plot suggests that parents ratings of personal-social responsibility were higher for inclusive
children than for segregated school children.

4. Discussion

The main aim of the present study was to compare the social competence of children with
moderate intellectual disability (ID) in inclusive versus segregated school settings. Children in
inclusive schools did not differ signicantly from children in segregated schools on the majority of
teacher and parent ratings of social competence. However, signicant interactions were noted for
hyperactivity problems and interpersonal adaptive behaviour, suggesting that for these scales more
complex patterns were evident. In addition, signicant main effects for proxy reports were found for
peer problems and prosocial behaviour, suggesting that for these scales parents and teachers did rate
children differently.
A number of these results warrant careful consideration. Interpretation of the nding that children
with moderate ID who attend inclusive schools received signicantly higher teacher ratings of

Fig. 2. Plotted mean ABS-S:2 Factor C standard scores across proxy and group showing a disordinal interaction.
404
S. Hardiman et al. / Research in Developmental Disabilities 30 (2009) 397407
Table 3
Mean (standard deviation in parentheses) scores 2  2 ANOVA results for group  proxy results on the ABS-S:2

Parent Teacher Group main effect Proxy main effect Interaction effect

Mainstream Segregated Mainstream Segregated


(n = 13) (n = 13) (n = 13) (n = 13)

ABS-S:2 domain
VII Self-Direction 10.79 (0.89) 10.08 (0.76) 10.43 (0.65) 10.46 (1.05) F = 1.55 (d.f. = 1,24) F = 0.01 (d.f. = 1,24) F = 4.16 (d.f. = 1,24)
VIII Responsibility 10.86 (1.35) 9.54 (1.66) 10.71 (1.82) 10.92 (1.44) F = 1.36 (d.f. = 1,24) F = 2.69 (d.f. = 1,24) F = 4.01 (d.f. = 1,24)
IX Socialisation 11.71 (2.27) 10.85 (1.86) 10.64 (2.02) 10.84 (2.34) F = 0.27 (d.f. = 1,24) F = 1.11 (d.f. = 1,24) F = 1.11 (d.f. = 1,24)
X Social Behaviour 10.43 (3.37) 12.46 (3.23) 10.86 (2.66) 12.62 (2.73) F = 3.56 (d.f. = 1,24) F = 0.25 (d.f. = 1,24) F = 0.06 (d.f. = 1,24)
XI Conformity 11.86 (3.28) 12.38 (2.69) 10.79 (3.77) 11.77 (2.92) F = 0.58 (d.f. = 1,24) F = 1.33 (d.f. = 1,24) F = 0.09 (d.f. = 1,24)
XII Trustworthiness 12.5 (2.68) 12.62 (2.59) 11.71 (3.02) 13.23 (2.24 F = 0.89 (d.f. = 1,24) F = 0.03 (d.f. = 1,24) F = 1.64 (d.f. = 1,24)

ABS-S:2 factor
C Personal-Social 110.5 (5.72) 104.8 (6.87) 107.2 (7.45) 108.2 (6.52) F = 1.09 (d.f. = 1,24) F = 0.01 (d.f. = 1,24) F = 7.54* (d.f. = 1,24)
Responsibility
D Social Adjustment 98.7 (15.73) 105.9 (12.15) 97.5 (13.27) 106.0 (11.54) F = 3.11 (d.f. = 1,24) F = 0.05 (d.f. = 1,24) F = 0.06 (d.f. = 1,24)
*
Signicant at p < 0.05 level.
S. Hardiman et al. / Research in Developmental Disabilities 30 (2009) 397407 405

hyperactivity than their segregated school peers is not straightforward and a number of factors may be
at play. Firstly, research indicates that children with ID have greater behavioural problems (e.g.
Dekker, Koot, van der Ende, & Verhulst, 2002) and rate signicantly higher in terms of hyperactivity
(e.g. Emerson, 2005) than non-ID peers. Teachers in inclusive schools are likely to have higher
expectations if they are basing implicit behaviour norms on typical children and this may bias
reporting (Shaw, Hammer, & Leland, 1991). Secondly, in the present study, the average staff-student
ratio per segregated school class was 7 times that of inclusive classes (i.e. 1:2.4 vs 1:17). Teachers with
a higher student-staff ratio may perceive a greater impact of behavioural disturbance than teachers
with lower class sizes and this could lead to bias in reporting. Nevertheless, factors within inclusive
school settings may contribute to these higher levels of activity. Researchers note that lack of
specialised staff training and poor staff-student ratios may maintain higher levels of hyperactivity in
typical children (Carr, 1999). Such factors may also be relevant for children with moderate ID in
inclusive schools settings.
Children with moderate ID who attend inclusive schools received signicantly higher ratings of
parent reported personal-social responsibility than their segregated school peers. This is a novel and
complex nding: rstly, previous empirical studies have not investigated the effects of educational
placement outside the school environment; and secondly, it indicates an effect of school enrolment
outside of the school environment but not within the school environment. This nding may be
explained by qualitative differences between parents who enroll their children with ID in inclusive
versus segregated school settings. For example, Begley (1999) posited that parents have to be highly
motivated to obtain an inclusive school placement for their child with moderate ID. This high
motivation may impact positively on their childrens adaptive interpersonal skills outside of school via
higher expectations and increased access to activities in the inclusive community. However, research
has indicated that children who attend inclusive schools are likely to exhibit higher levels of adaptive
behaviour prior to school entry (Osborne, Schulte, & McKinney, 1991). Thus, the present interaction
effect may result from differences that existed prior to school placement and be an artefact of the
present quasi-experimental design.
The two signicant proxy effects indicated that parents rated their children as having signicantly
more peer problems and a higher level of prosocial behaviour than teachers. The combination of these
ndings seems counterintuitive. In typical children, social behaviour inuences social status (Crick &
Dodge, 1994; Dodge, 1986) and children who exhibit higher frequencies of prosocial behaviour are
more likely to be accepted by peers (Coie, Dodge, & Kupersmidt, 1990). The parent rating of greater
peer problems at home, in spite of higher ratings of prosocial behaviour, may indicate that while
children with ID interact and develop friendships at school, these friendships may not generalise
beyond the school setting. Kennedy and Itkonen (1994) found that social contacts within classrooms
did not readily generalise outside of the classroom for adolescents for ID and concluded that active
efforts may be required to achieve such outcomes. This may also be true for the present sample. The
nding of higher parent versus teacher ratings of prosocial behaviour may indicate that these children
exhibit higher levels of prosocial behaviour at home. This nding may reect Mercers (1973) position
that a child may function at different levels or be rated differently by persons from different social
systems.
Before considering the implications of these ndings, it is important to examine the possible
impact of methodological factors. In the introduction to this article several limitations were identied
in the previous research in this area, and the present study attempted to address these. Key strengths
of the present study included multiple sources of information, a more homogenous sample (i.e.
moderate ID), and using standardised measures and appropriate statistical analyses. These
methodological and statistical strengths increase the condence and interpretability of ndings in
the current relative to previous research. However, limitations do exist and these included small
sample size, the absence of an unbiased source of child behaviour ratings and the use of a cross-
sectional design. These limitations may decrease the power of the present study to detect meaningful
differences between groups. Considering the strengths and limitations, the present study represented
a focussed investigation of the effects of educational placement setting on the social competence of
children with moderate ID as rated by key informants and its results can be interpreted with an
adequate degree of condence.
406 S. Hardiman et al. / Research in Developmental Disabilities 30 (2009) 397407

Within these parameters, the study has made a number of key contributions to knowledge. Firstly,
this is the rst study to investigate the effects of school placement on the social competence of Irish
children with moderate ID. Secondly, the present study is one of few investigations (e.g. Burley, 1995)
into the effects of school placement from a social-systems perspective that compared parent and
teacher reports of child functioning.
In light of these considerations the ndings have a number of important implications. Firstly,
results of the present study indicate that parents rate their children with moderate ID as exhibiting
greater peer problems than do teachers. This is true for both inclusive and segregated school children
and suggests that active and direct interventions will be required to facilitate the generalisation of
social interactions and friendships for children with moderate ID from school to home and
community. Secondly, despite mixed results from previous international research, the present study
found that Irish children with moderate ID in both inclusive and segregated school settings
experienced similar levels of social competence at home and at school, suggesting that both
educational placements are presently serving these children well. This nding is very relevant for
parents seeking information on the suitability of segregated versus inclusive education for their
children with moderate ID. On the basis of present ndings, focus should be given to the individual
needs of the child and how individual school resources can meet these needs. Such considerations
would be best formulated using a functional model of intellectual disability (e.g. AAMR, 2002), which
focuses on individual strengths and the development of appropriate ecological supports. Finally,
although the present ndings indicate that placement type does not signicantly impact social
competence, one cannot conclude that both settings achieve social competence goals via similar
mechanisms. Future research is needed to investigate the range of school-related factors that promote
social competence development in different settings. Furthermore, research may benet from
considering the quality of inclusion as a continuum rather than as a dipole of mixed and segregated
educational settings. This would allow for investigation of how different inclusive settings compare on
social competence outcomes in relation to the quality of their inclusion rather than their category of
inclusion.
In conclusion, a number of complex ndings were identied based on the results of the present
study. The interpretation of these data was necessarily limited due to novelty. These ndings need to
be replicated in an independent peer-reviewed study in order to further understand them. Similarly,
interpretation of results was limited due to a number of methodological issues. These limitations will
be best addressed by future research that employs a longitudinal large-scale design to integrate data
from child, parent, teacher, and independent ratings across matched samples of children with ID. Such
research will be of great importance in the planning and structuring of progressive educational
services for children with intellectual disability in Ireland.

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