Abstract

OBJECTIVE. The purpose of this study was to investigate the characteristics of the school social environment experienced by children with physical disabilities and the social interactional characteristics of children with physical disabilities in the school environment. The goal was to understand the interactive processes that support or inhibit these children’s social interactions.

METHOD. Naturalistic observation and participant interviews were used to collect data on social interaction patterns of three children with physical disabilities 5 to 8 years of age who were enrolled in age-appropriate regular education classrooms. Descriptive codes were obtained through constant comparative analysis.

RESULTS. Four themes were identified that characterized aspects of the social environment affecting the social interactions of children with disabilities: reciprocity, characteristics of social and play interactions, effects of adult involvement, and quality of occupational engagement.

CONCLUSION. The study supports the need for occupational therapists to focus intervention on multiple aspects of the social environment to facilitate children’s socialization.

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