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Published for the British Institute of Learning Disabilities

Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities 2010, 23, 143153

Perceived Social Acceptance and Peer Intimacy Among Children with Disabilities in Regular Schools in Norway
Christian Wendelborg* and yvind Kvello
*Department of Social Work and Health Science, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NTNU, Trondheim, Norway; Department of Psychology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NTNU, Trondheim, Norway

Accepted for publication

20 April 2009

Background The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between educational arrangements, social participation during leisure time and perceived social acceptance and peer intimacy among disabled children. Methods Eighty-ve Norwegian children with disabilities, 11- to 13-year old, and their parents, participated in this study. An empirical model was generated by means of structural equation modelling using lisrel. Results The type and severity of the impairment has no direct effect on perceived social acceptance and peer intimacy, but an indirect effect because they inuence educational arrangements, which in turn pre-

dict social participation in leisure time. Social participation in leisure time is the only variable with a direct effect on perceived social acceptance and peer intimacy. Conclusions Educational arrangements may obstruct the opportunities of children with disabilities have for participating and interacting socially during leisure time and may further have a negative impact on their perceived social acceptance and peer intimacy. Keywords: disabilities, inclusion, leisure time, participation, school organization

Introduction
The prevailing ideology in Norway and most western countries is that children with disabilities should receive their education in inclusive settings together with peers who have no disabilities (UNESCO 1994; Pijl & Meijer 1997). School is an important place for social interaction, establishing friendships and for giving and receiving social support. However, school-age children with disabilities have a less positive assessment of their social belonging than that of their peers with no disabilities (Hogan et al. 2000; Watson & Keith 2002), they are less socially preferred among their peers (Cambra & Silvestre 2003; Smoot 2003), and they participate less in social and curriculum activities at school (Simeonsson et al. 2001; Eriksson et al. 2007). Such ndings are not only limited to school settings either: children and youth with disabilities often experience barriers to both recreational, community and school participation (Law et al. 2007), participate less in social activities, and have fewer

intimate relations with friends than children and youth without disabilities (Stevens et al. 1996). Despite such strong inclusion policies, many children with disabilities do not attend their local regular school. Studies indicate that about 40% of children with intellectual disabilities and 75% of children with multiple disabilities in Norway attend special schools (Wendelborg & Tssebro 2008). Furthermore, children with disabilities who attend regular schools are increasingly removed from regular classrooms and from activities with their peers (Wendelborg & Tssebro 2008). An increase in out of class practices demands that we look more closely at the consequences of such practices for children with disabilities who receive their education at regular schools. The aim of this study was to examine how children with disabilities between the ages of 11 and 13 who attend regular schools assess their own levels of social acceptance and peer intimacy. Furthermore, attention will be paid on the impact that educational organization
10.1111/j.1468-3148.2009.00515.x

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in regular schools has on the interaction between children with disabilities and their peers in after school-time, as well as on how they perceive their social situation. Even though there is a considerable body of literature on the social effects of inclusion, only a few studies allow children with disabilities to report on their social situation themselves, and fewer still, if any, focus on how the perception children with disabilities have of their social situation might be related to how regular schools arrange their educational provision.

Educational arrangements and participation


How schools arrange their educational offerings to children with disabilities lays the foundation for how they interact socially with their peers. Because special education has its origins in the medical, pathological, paradigm where there is a sharp division between general and special education (Booth 1998; Haug 1999), teaching children with special needs has primarily developed within a segregated practice. Hence, special education educators often take their pupils out of the regular classroom for intensive educational work and support. Participation in the regular classroom depends on how much special education is seen as being needed, which in turn is related to the type and severity of the impairment: children with intellectual disabilities and children with severer impairments receive more special education, for example (Wendelborg & Tssebro 2008). A method of teaching which relied on segregation may not be the most effective means of bringing about an inclusive setting and practice, and children with disabilities are often not adequately provided for in regular class teaching (Norwich & Lewis 2001; Giangreco & Broer 2005). Regular schools use school assistants extensively to support teachers and children with disabilities (Giangreco et al. 2001). However, research indicates that school assistants may both facilitate and hinder student participation and may even interfere in social interactions with peers (Giangreco & Broer 2005; Tews & Lupart 2008). Limitations placed on participation in regular school activities, as well as exclusion from these activities, may have an effect on activities and participation in leisure time because there is often a considerable overlap between the social network of children during and after school hours (Kiesner et al. 2003; Kvello 2006). Earlier studies indicate that young adults with developmental disabilities have fewer leisure activities (Van Naarden Braun et al. 2006) and ndings among high schools students with intellectual disabilities suggest that lack of shared classrooms experience with general education

peers may restrict their interactions with students without disabilities in other settings (Hughes et al. 1999). When it comes to young boys with developmental delays, Guralnick (1997) reported fewer connections between playmates in school or daycare settings and playmates in their neighbourhoods (that is, multibred social connections) than there were among their equivalent developing peers. Even though ndings vary depending to some extent on the type and severity of impairments, most children with a disability succeed in having at least one mutual friendship if they are placed in regular kindergarten or a school which focuses on inclusion (Bear et al. 1993; Buysse 1993; Wiener & Tardif 2004). Other ndings indicate that children with severe disabilities receive more social support and have more, and more long-lasting, friendships when they attend regular schools which work actively towards inclusion than when special arrangements are made on their behalf (Fryxell & Kennedy 1995; Kennedy et al. 1997). However, children with disabilities or with special educational needs often fall outside much of the spontaneous and child-initiated interactions at school (Pijl & Hamstra 2005).

Conceptual model
The purpose of this study was to explore how children with disabilities in regular schools perceive of their Social acceptance and peer intimacy, which is the main dependent variable, and how this is related to childrens characteristics, the educational arrangement in regular schools and social participation in leisure time. We expected that the independent variables would be interrelated and would have an impact on each other. However, childrens characteristics are exogenous variables (independent of other variables in the model), while educational arrangements in regular schools and social participation in leisure time are endogenous (dependent on other variables in the model). In this study, childrens characteristics are represented by the type of disability and degree of impairment, while the educational arrangement in regular schools is measured through classroom participation (i.e. time spent in the regular classroom per week) and the amount of educational support. The latter is represented by Weekly hours of special education and Weekly hours with assistant because the school support system in Norway consists of special education, mainly provided by special education teachers, along with support from school assistants. An overall conceptual model is shown in Figure 1. The gure should be read from left to right where anticipated

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Type of disability 0 = physical 1 = intellectual + Hours of special education

+ Classroom participation + +

+ Social participation in leisure time +

Perceived social acceptance/ peer intimacy

+ Hours with assistants

Figure 1 Conceptual model. The impact of childrens characteristics, educational arrangements and social participation in leisure time on perceived social acceptance and peer intimacy.

Degree of impairment

relations between the variables are indicated by arrows. Anticipated positive or negative relations are indicated by plus or minus signs. Based on the research presented in the introduction, our overall theoretical assumption was that children with intellectual disabilities would receive more hours of special education and hours with assistants than children with physical disabilities. We anticipated that intellectual disability would predict less classroom participation both directly and indirectly: that is, more hours of special education and assistance would mean fewer hours in the regular classroom. The severity of a childs impairment was hypothesized to have a similar pattern: a more severe impairment would predict more hours of special education and assistance and consequently less participation in regular classroom activities. Furthermore, we believed that classroom participation would positively predict social participation in leisure time, but we expected that the latter variable would be negatively predicted by intellectual disability, the severity of impairment, and by the amount of special education and hours spent with a school assistant. Classroom participation and social participation in leisure time were hypothesized to predict perceptions of social acceptance and peer intimacy positively, while the other variables were hypothesized to have a negative impact on the main dependent variable.

Materials and Methods Participants and procedures


The study is a part of the longitudinal project Growing up with disabilities, which is a life course study.

The participants are Norwegian children with disabilities, born between 1993 and 1995, and their parents. The families were recruited from the registers at the Regional Rehabilitation Services for Children (RRSC). Such services are established in all the counties in Norway and RRSCs in seventeen of the 19 Norwegian counties agreed to participate. In 1998, we asked the RRSCs to select all children with physical, intellectual or multiple disabilities born between 1993 and 1995. Most children with these disabilities are in contact with the RRSC in their early childhood, for diagnostic purposes, assessment, or habilitation services, with the exception of children with minor or undiscovered disabilities or children with later onset disabilities. In all, 984 children were identied, a number which constitutes 0.55% of all children in the same age group in the seventeen participating counties. At the time of the sampling, 1998, the proportion of children in Norway between 06 years of age who received Basic Benet and or Supplementary Benet (granted to the majority of children with disabilities) on the basis of physical, intellectual, multiple diagnosis or with no diagnosis was 0.82% (Rikstrygdeverket 1998). This gure is an overestimate when compared with our sample, because many children with no diagnosis are not included in our target group. Thus, a percentage of 0.55 corresponds fairly well with the proportion of children at that age who receive Basic Benet and Supplementary Benet on the basis of a similar diagnosis to those included in our sample. An invitation to participate in the life course study was sent to all 984 parents and 668 accepted. The study used questionnaires to gather data. The rst collection

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of data took place in 1999, and the procedure was repeated in 2003 and again in 2006. 603, 490 and 443 parents (respectively) took part. In 2006 the children were between 11 and 13 years old. When the questionnaire was sent to the parents, we also asked their permission to send a questionnaire to their child. Two hundred fteen parents gave their consent and their questionnaires were sent in the spring of 2007. Because of the degree of impairment and the type of disabilities of the children, it was likely that some of the 215 children were not able to complete the questionnaire. We therefore enclosed with the questionnaire an accompanying letter to the parents. The letter explained that the questionnaire was probably not suitable for all children. If the child was not able or did not want to participate, we asked for the letter to be returned with a brief parental explanation as to why the child did not participate. The parents had the possibility of checking any one of the following options: (1) The child was not able to answer the questions; (2) the child did not want to participate; (3) the parents did not want the child to participate; or (4) other reason. Of the 215 questionnaires sent out, a total of 156 were returned (72.6%) and 99 (46.5%) were completed. Parents of 39 children (18.1%) reported that the child was not able to answer the questions; nine (4.1%) reported that the child did not want to participate and three parents (1.4%) did not want their child to participate. Four parents (1.9%) had checked the option other reason and two questionnaires were returned from the post ofce probably because the address information was incomplete. Although 99 children completed the questionnaire, only the data from the 85 children who attending regular schools is included in the analysis. Table 1 shows that when it comes to age and gender and hours with assistant, there are similarities between our survey sample and those involving the other 180 children who attend regular schools in the project Growing-up with disabilities, but that there are signicant differences regarding type of disability, degree of impairment, classroom participation and amount of special education. Moreover, the sample in the child survey had lesser degrees of impairment: more children had a physical disability, fewer school hours of special education and more social participation with peers in their leisure time. This was expected because the children themselves had answered the questionnaire. However, 62.6% of the children stated that they had completed the questionnaire together with a parent. This article used data gathered from children in 2007

Table 1 Characteristics of the child survey sample (n = 85) compared with children attending regular schools in the total sample (2006) who did not participate in the child survey (n = 180) (% and mean, n = 265) Total sample in regular schools not in children survey 56.1 34.4 33.9 21.7 42.1 42.1 9.4 6.4 Mean: 11.91; SD: 3.67; range: 623

Children survey sample Boy Year of birth 1993 1994 1995 Type of disability* Physical disability Intellectual disability Multiple disabilities Other Degree of impairment** 56.5 32.9 31.8 35.3 69.9 22.9 7.2 Mean: 10.71; SD: 2.95; range: 619

Hours of special education* (h) No special education 36.5 15 29.4 610 22.4 1115 9.4 16 2.4 Hours with assistant (h) No assistant 25.9 15 11.8 610 16.5 1115 16.5 16 29.4 Classroom participation** (%) <25 together with 7.1 ordinary class 2550 18.8 5175 22.4 >75 together with 51.8 ordinary class Social participation Mean: 3.01; leisure time** SD: 1.26; range: 15 Mean: 3.78; Perceived social SD: 1.0; acceptance and range: 1.105 peer intimacy

19.4 22.2 31.1 17.8 9.4 23.3 11.1 16.1 21.1 28.3 18.7 24.6 25.1 31.6 Mean: 2.66; SD: 1.28; range: 15

*Signicant difference between the groups (v2, P > 0.01); **Signicant difference between the groups (independent sample t-test, P > 0.05).

and their parents in 2006. Background variables gathered from parents in 1999 and 2003 were also used in the data analysis.

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Measures Perceived social acceptance and peer intimacy


Perceived social acceptance and peer intimacy is the only variable used in this article from the childrens questionnaire. The variable was measured with a scale translated and modied from the peer subscale of the Relational Provisions Loneliness Questionnaire (RPLQ) (Hayden 1989). The RPLQ consists of a peer scale and a family scale, in which the peer scale assesses the level of perceived social acceptance and peer intimacy. Ten of the original 14 questions from the perceived social acceptance subscale (e.g. I feel in tune with other children) and the perceived peer intimacy subscale (e.g. I have a friend I can tell everything to) were included in the questionnaire. The children were asked to respond using a ve-point scale (Not at all true, hardly ever true, sometimes true, true most of the time, always true). A principal component analysis (PCA) (oblique rotation) based on Kaisers criterion suggested only one factor (eigenvalue = 6.0; per cent of variance = 59.6), with a Cronbachs alpha of 0.92. The variable is treated as one homogenous variable constructed through the total valid sum divided by the number of valid items (at least 7 of 10 valid items) and ranges from 1.1 to 5. Higher scores on this scale indicate higher levels of perceived social acceptance and peer intimacy in peer relations. (For more information about the RPLQ, the reader is directed to Terrell-Deutsch (1999).)

through the total valid sum divided by the number of valid items (at least 3 of 4 valid items) and ranges from 1 to 5.

Hours of special education


The parents reported the amount of hours of special education their child received on a weekly basis. In Norway there are on average 27 weekly school hours in the 5th7th grade. There were ve response categories: No special education, 15 h, 610 h, 1115 h and 16 h or more. Because of the distribution in the variable the two latter categories are handled as one; 11 h or more. The variable is treated as continuous.

Hours with assistant


The parents assessed how many hours their child had an assistant at school on a weekly basis. There were ve response categories: Does not have an assistant, 15 h, 610 h, 1115 h and 16 h or more. The variable is treated as continuous.

Classroom participation
Parents of children attending regular schools were asked to assess how much of the total school time the child was a part of the regular class group during the school day on a four point scale ranging from 1 <25% to 4 >75%. In the analysis, this is treated as a continuous variable.

Social participation in leisure time


Social participation in leisure time consists of four questions. Parents indicated the childs participation with peers during leisure time (i.e. To what extent does the child spend time with peers without disabilities during her or his leisure time?, Does the child participate in organized activities with children without disabilities in their leisure time?, To what extent do peers come to play with or visit the child at home?, To what extent does your child visit peers during her or his leisure time?) on a ve-point scale ranging from 1 (to a very slight extent) to 5 (to a very large extent). Principal component analysis (oblique rotation) based on Kaisers criterion suggested one factor (eigenvalue = 2.7; per cent of variance = 74.8), with a Cronbachs alpha of 0.88. A higher score on this scale indicates a higher level of social participation with peers during the childs leisure time. The variable is treated as one homogenous variable constructed

Degree of impairment. Degree of impairment is constructed as a simple additive scale using six different questions about the degree of impairment activity restrictions (as dened by parents). Assessments of the following six areas were used: (1) Severity of impairment (three response categories). (2) Visibility of impairment (three response categories). (3) Expressive communication (ve response categories). (4) Language comprehension (four response categories). (5) Restrictions in mobility (ve response categories). (6) Need for assistance during meals (three response categories). Missing values were replaced by means. A high value indicates a more severe impairment. The degree of impairment scale ranges from 6 to 23 with a Cronbach alpha of 0.82 in the total sample. The degree of impairment variable could theoretically represent two uncorrelated dimensions; mobility impairment and learning difculties, but this was not supported by our empirical data. As a PCA suggested one factor and the Cronbachs alpha was rather high, the variable is treated as one homogenous variable.

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Type of disability
The parents classied the childs type of disability in 1999, following the criteria for sampling. This variable consists of four categories: Physical disability, Intellectual disability, Multiple disabilities and Other. This is a nominal variable, and to simplify the analysis (and because of the distribution of the variable) this variable is recoded into a dichotomous variable: Physical disability (value = 0) and Intellectual disability Other (value = 1).

Results
Table 2 show bivariate relations between the dependent and independent variables. The differences in perceived social acceptance and peer intimacy are not signicant either between boys and girls (independent sample t-test; t[83] = )0.69, P = ns) or between age groups (anova; F[2,82] = 0.35, P = ns). Preliminary bivariate regression analysis excludes gender and age as predictors of perceived social acceptance and peer intimacy and from further analysis in SEM. Table 2 suggest no signicant differences between children with physical and children with intellectual disability (t[83] = 1.98,

Analysis
Version 14.0 of the spss (SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL, USA) software package along with lisrel 8.80 (SSI Inc., Lincolnwood, IL, USA) was used for the statistical analysis. The statistical signicance was set at a = 0.05. An independent sample t-test and a chi-square test were used to determine whether there were any signicant differences between children included in this analysis and the other 180 children in the project Growing up with disabilities, who attending regular schools. A PCA was carried out to evaluate data reduction for the variables Perceived social acceptance and peer intimacy and Social participation in leisure time. Pearsons r and preliminary linear regression were used to explore relations and to prepare the ground for model generating through structural equation modelling (SEM). lisrel was used to analyse the structural equation model. The aim of model generating is to nd a model that can give a meaningful theoretical interpretation: in addition, one that ts well with the data from a statistical point of view (Joreskog & Sorbom 1993). Even though it would be possible to use latent variables instead of an initial PCA, only observed data is used. This was performed to avoid an overly complex path diagram and too many variables compared with the sample size.

Table 2 Bivariate relations between perceived social acceptance and peer intimacy and gender, age groups, degree of impairment, classroom participation and social participation in leisure time (Pearsons r, independent sample t-test, anova; n = 85) Variable Gender Boy Girl Age Born 1993 Born 1994 Born 1995 Type of disability1 Physical disability Intellectual disability other Degree of impairment Hours of special education* (h) No special education 15 610 11 Hours with assistant* (h) No assistant 15 610 1115 16 Classroom participation** (%) <25 together with ordinary class 2550 5175 >75 together with ordinary class Social participation in leisure time Pearsons r Mean SD

3.76 3.92 3.95 3.81 3.72 3.98 3.50 )0.217* 4.28 3.76 3.36 3.48 4.26 4.26 3.35 3.42 3.77 3.58 2.97 3.78 4.20 0.468***

1.13 0.95 0.98 1.15 1.05 1.04 1.02

0.89 1.04 1.12 0.98 0.76 1.07 1.15 1.07 1.06 1.37 0.95 1.13 0.82

Data screening and collinearity diagnostics


Data screening revealed normally distributed data (standardized scores of skewness and kurtosis <3.3). Analysis of collinarity diagnostic for the variables included in the structural equation model indicates no collinarity (tolerance: 0.62 to 0.75; VIF: 1.33 to 1.61). The result of the DurbinWatson test is well within the boundaries for acceptance (DurbinWatson = 1.70), and interpreting residuals gives no reason for concern (Cooks distance <1; centered leverage value <(3(k + 1) n); Mahalanobis Distance max = 18.9; Standardized DFbeta statistics <1).

*P < 0.05; **P < 0.01; ***P < 0.001. 1 Not signicant (P = 0.51) but included in further analysis.

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P = 0.051[ns]). However, this variable is included in the analyses because of its theoretical importance and because of its high (although not signicant) t-value. Perceived social acceptance and peer intimacy decrease with the severity of impairment (Pearsons r = )0.217, P < 0.05) while they increase with social participation in leisure time (Pearsons r = 0.468, P < 0.001). An analysis of the variance indicate that children who have no or few hours of special education or hours with assistants perceive themselves as having more social acceptance and peer intimacy (Hours of special education: F[3,81] = 3.93, P < 0.05; Hours with assistant: F[4,80] = 2.84, P < 0.05). In addition, children who are more than 75% together in regular class appear to perceive themselves as having more social acceptance and peer intimacy (Classroom participation; F[3,81] = 6.56, P < 0.01).

Table 3 gives an overview of the correlation for the variables included in the Structural Equation Model. There are signicant relations between all the independent and the dependent variables Perceived social acceptance and peer intimacy, except Type of disability (as also indicated in Table 2). The correlation matrix shows negative correlations between Degree of impairment and the dependent variable and a rather strong positive correlation between Classroom participation, Social participation in leisure time and Perceived social acceptance and peer intimacy. Weekly hours of special education and with an assistant correlate negatively with Perceived social acceptance and peer intimacy. As opposed to the correlation matrix in Table 3, the SEM in Figure 2 indicates direct and indirect contributions from one variable to another. Figure 2 shows standardized beta coefcients and corresponding t-values (in

Table 3 Correlation between the variables included in the SEM analysis (Pearsons r) Perceived social acceptance peer intimacy Perceived social acceptance peer intimacy Type of disability Degree of impairment Hours of special education Hours with assistant Classroom participation Social participation in leisure time 1 )0.212 )0.217* )0.328** )0.227* 0.379*** 0.468*** 1 0.058 0.431*** 0.126 )0.390*** )0.331**

Type of disability

Degree of impairment

Hours of special education

Hours with assistant

Classroom participation

Social participation in leisure time

1 0.259* 0.553*** )0.322** )0.386***

1 0.292** )0.512*** )0.449***

1 )0.290** )0.391***

1 0.481***

*P < 0.05; **P < 0.01; ***P < 0.001.

Type of disability 0 = physical 1 = intellectual


0.4 2( 4.3 3)

0.22 (2.25)

Figure 2 The modied structure equation model. Relations between the exogenous variables type of disability and degree of impairment and the endogenous variables hours of special education, classroom participation, social participation in leisure time and perceived social acceptance and peer intimacy. v2 = 10.86; d.f. = 10; P-value = 0.37; root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) = 0.032; goodness of t index (GFI) = 0.96; adjusted goodness of t index (AGFI) = 0.90; non-normed t index (NNFI) = 0.99.

Hours of special education


9) 3.4 ( .36 0

0.2

3 (

2.18

0.23 (2.4 4)

Classroom 0.30 (2.79) participation


)

Social participation in leisure time

0.46 (4.72)

Perceived social acceptance/ peer intimacy

0.
6.0

24

(2

.61

0.5

5(

Degree of impairment

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0.22 (2.33)

2)

Hours with assistants

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brackets). The initial theoretical model (Figure 1) resulted in unsatisfactory t indices, i.e. an unsatisfactory agreement between the reproduced and the existing covariance matrix. Modication based on theoretical consideration and suggested modications made by lisrel gave the modied structural equation model shown in Figure 2. Hypothesized, but insignicant paths are indicated with broken arrows. The t indices show an acceptable model t. The chi-square (v2-test) is non-signicant, meaning that there is no signicant difference between the modied theoretical model and the empirical model based on the data. The root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) is 0.032 and a REMSEA under 0.05 is considered to be an excellent t. The goodness of t index (GFI); the adjusted goodness of t index (AGFI) and the non-normed t index (NNFI) are all over 0.9, which is threshold-value for a satisfactory model t. Figure 2 indicates that only Social participation in leisure time has a direct effect on Perceived social acceptance and peer intimacy [0.46(4.72)]. The other variables make only an indirect contribution. Having an intellectual disability appear to contribute to more Hours of special education [0.42(4.33)]. This in turn has a negative effect on Classroom participation [)0.36()3.49)]. In addition, the Type of disability has a direct negative

impact on Classroom participation [)0.22()2.25)]. Degree of impairment has a direct positive effect on Hours of special education [0.23(2.44)] and through the latter a negative effect on Classroom participation. Degree of impairment also has a positive impact on Hours with assistants [0.55(6.02)] and a negative effect on Classroom participation [)0.22(2.33)], as well as an indirectly negative impact on Social participation in leisure time through Hours with assistants [)0.24(2.61)] and Hours of special education [)0.23()2.18)]. Degree of impairment, Type of disability and Hours of special education have indirect effects on Social participation in leisure time through Classroom participation [0.30(2.79)]. The overall picture from Figure 2 is that Type of disability and Degree of impairment do not have an direct effect on Perceived social acceptance and peer intimacy per se, but do so indirectly mainly through educational arrangements, represented with the variables Hours of special education, Hours with assistants and Classroom participation. Educational arrangements contribute in its turn to Social participation in leisure time which is the main predictor of Perceived social acceptance and peer intimacy. Table 4 shows the direct, indirect and total effects the predictor variables have on Perceived social acceptance
Direct Indirect Total effects effects effects )0.02 )0.10 Table 4 Direct, indirect and total effects on perceived social acceptance and peer intimacy; standardized solutions

Variable Type of disability

Path through

Hours of special education. classroom participation and social participation (0.42*)0.36*0.3*0.46) Hours of special education and social participation (0.42*)0.23*0.46) Classroom participation and social participation ()0.22*0.3*0.46) Degree of impairment Hours of special education. classroom participation and social participation (0.23*)0.36*0.3*0.46) Hours of special education and social participation (0.23*)0.23*0.46) Hours with assistant and social participation (0.55*)0.24*0.46) Classroom participation and social participation ()0.22*0.3*0.46) Hours of special Classroom participation and social education participation ()0.36*0.30*0.46) Social participation ()0.23*0.46) Hours with assistant Social participation ()0.24*0.46) Classroom participation Social participation (0.30*0.46) Social participation 0.46

)0.04 )0.03 )0.01 )0.13

)0.02 )0.06

)0.03 )0.05 )0.11 )0.11 0.14 )0.16

)0.11 0.14 0.46

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and peer intimacy. Table 4 shows that the total negative effect of Type of disability is 0.10 on Perceived social acceptance and peer intimacy while Degree of impairment has a total negative effect of 0.13 on the dependent variable. Hours of special education and Hours with assistants have a negative total effect of respectively 0.16 and 0.11, while Classroom participation has a total positive effect of 0.14. Social participation in leisure time is the only variable with a direct effect on Perceived social acceptance and peer intimacy. This effect is positive with a coefcient of 0.46, which is also the total effect of the variable.

Discussion
The perception of social acceptance and peer intimacy strongly depends on the childs social participation with peers during leisure time. The type of disability and the degree of impairment plays only an indirect role, via educational arrangements, in how they perceive their levels of social acceptance and peer intimacy. The educational arrangements in regular schools dene what is possible when it comes to social participation in leisure time and in turn how one perceives of ones social acceptance and peer intimacy. Kvello (2006) found that children between 9 and 15 years of age with special education needs experienced less social support from peers than other children. Other studies indicate that children with special education needs in regular schools experience more social interaction than children in special school set-ups, but children with special education needs are still socially rather isolated and close and reciprocal friendship are rare (Guralnick et al. 1995; Siperstein & Leffert 1997). Our study suggests that these differences in peer relations between children with disabilities and special education needs and other children are partly dependent on how regular schools organize their educational offerings. In this study, it becomes clear that educational arrangements in regular schools have a marked impact on social participation with peers in leisure time. Special education appears to have both a direct negative impact on social participation in leisure time and an indirect impact via classroom participation: it has an even stronger impact than the severity of the impairment of the child (Total effect [Beta] of 0.34 versus 0.28). However, weekly hours with an assistant, unlike weekly hours of special education, do not have an impact on classroom participation in this study, though they do have a direct impact on social participation in leisure time. This may indicate that school assistants support children inside

the classrooms while special educators provide support outside the regular classroom. Furthermore, the negative impact of hours with an assistant on social participation in leisure time may indicate that even though being with an assistant supports classroom participation, assistants may obstruct social interaction with peers in school time, which in turn may affect social participation in leisure time. Kvello (2006) found a 50% overlap between school time social networking and after-school social networking among Norwegian children, while a study of children from Milan, Italy indicates an overlap of 30% of friends between these two arenas (Kiesner et al. 2003). These studies are of children with typical development, while Guralnick (1997) found that preschool boys with development delays had fewer multibre networks connections (i.e. the same playmate in both preschool or daycare settings and in their neighbourhood) than their peers with typical development. These ndings support the data analysis in this article about the impact that participation in school activities with peers has on participation in activities with peers in leisure time. Research about social interactions using online media may substantiate an understanding that relationships in different arenas are often interdependent. Several ndings suggest that a considerable overlap of social interactions in face to face arenas and virtual arenas strengthen already existing relationships (Hlebec et al. 2006; Kaare et al. 2007), suggesting the difculty of compensating for a lack of social interactions and support in other social arenas. The results show that the severity of impairment has an impact on the amount of special education and hours spent with assistants, and on participation in classroom activities. However the type of disability has a greater impact on the hours of special education given during school time than the degree of impairment. This indicates that Norwegian schools are more accessible to children with physical impairment than to children with intellectual disabilities. The way regular schools organize the education of children with intellectual disabilities results in these children being withdrawn from the regular classroom and thus being restricted in their chances to gain access to social benets in both school and leisure time. The connection between special education and withdrawal from classroom activities with peers is also documented in other research (Booth 1998; Haug 1999; Ring & Travers 2005). Wendelborg & Tssebro (2008) argue that such practices might be understood as a way for regular schools to mediate between the demands of the prevailing ideology of inclusion and their need to main-

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tain existing practices. This indicates that educational arrangements for children with disabilities may not have the childs best interest in mind. Several earlier ndings show that institutional needs may be as important as the childs educational needs when it comes to the amount of special education (e.g. Pijl & Meijer 1997), and that the possibilities for children to participate in education together with all their peers are governed by factors other than their educational needs (Meijer & De Jager 2001; Wendelborg & Tssebro 2008). The impact of classroom participation on social participation in leisure time may be perceived in different ways. It may be understood as demonstrating that some children with disabilities have particular characteristics or conditions which make it easier for them to be more integrated in both school activities and in social activities in leisure time and vice versa. A second interpretation may be that the organization of teaching in regular schools reduces participation in school activities and thus limits the possibilities for social participation in leisure time. A third interpretation may be that the practices and attitudes schools have when it comes to the education of children with disabilities are reected in the way children interact with each other. If schools and adults signal that children with disabilities have to be withdrawn from the classroom, then it can hardly be expected for children to include them in social activities during leisure time. The qualities of the social environment may contribute to the development of competent social behaviour (Bronson et al. 1997; Guralnick 1999). Limited peer experience is likely to affect a number of processes related to social competence (Guralnick 1999), thus resulting in further limited opportunities of develop competence and experience peer support. Restrictions placed on activities involving children with disabilities together with their peers at school may obstruct peer interactions in other settings as well, reducing the possibility of gaining socially competent behaviour and thus the experiences necessary for more social acceptance and peer intimacy. The present study has important limitations, foremost the use of self-reported measures which may exclude many children with intellectual and more severe disabilities to participate. In addition, many children stated that they had completed the questionnaire together with a parent, which may inuence how children report their social situation. Despite the limitation of the present study, the ndings offer important contributions to the body of knowledge on the social dimension of educational inclusion. First, the signicant relationship between educational arrangements and social participation in lei-

sure time and second, the impact this relationship has on childrens perceived social acceptance and peer intimacy. Future research will prot by using both quantitative and qualitative methods and measures (e.g. observational studies) to study mechanisms related to marginalization in inclusive education and the social situation for children, in cases where self-reports can not be applied.

Acknowledgment
This research was supported by The Research Council of Norway, Grant 164498 S20.

Correspondence
Any correspondence should be directed to Christian Wendelborg, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NTNU, Department of Social Work and Health Science, N-7491 Trondheim, Norway (e-mail: christian. wendelborg@samfunn.ntnu.no).

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