Date Presented 04/01/2022

School trips present challenges for the inclusion and participation of students with disabilities. School trips provide expanded learning opportunities and real-world learning experiences. This research presentation will provide an overview of the challenges, barriers, supports, and strategies reported by parents of children with disabilities in qualitative interviews. OTs, as part of the interdisciplinary team, can facilitate increased school trip participation and inclusion.

Primary Author and Speaker: Ann Potter

Contributing Authors: Kimberly D. Wynarczuk, Laurie D. Kahn, Eric Sanders, Brenna M. Curley, Lauren Kresge, Corinne Jean-Louis

PURPOSE: Students with disabilities are entitled to have the same opportunities for education as their non-disabled peers. School trips provide unique learning opportunities for students that complement the curriculum. School trips present environmental, social, sensory, and other challenges for students with disabilities The purpose of this study was to listen to parent stories about their child(ren)’s experiences to identify the barriers to and strategies that enhance participation in school trips.

DESIGN: Researchers utilized a narrative approach through semistructured interviews exploring the planning process and experience with school trips. This was part of a larger study using a sequential explanatory mixed-methods approach to determine the face validity and perceived utility of the School Trip Accommodations Tool (STAT)

METHOD: A purposive sample, of 26 parents of children with disabilities, was recruited from the sample of the STAT Review Survey. The purposive sample reflected a variety of diagnoses and ages to achieve saturation. The participants’ children with disabilities were an average of 11.9 years old (range = 6–21 years of age). Semi-structured interviews were conducted using video conferencing between July and November 2020. During the interview, participants described a past school trip experience that went well and an experience that did not go well. Researchers asked probing questions to elicit descriptions of specific barriers and strategies that contributed to a successful school trip. Researchers analyzed interview transcripts using a qualitative iterative approach based on thematic analysis.

RESULTS: Five major themes emerged related to school trip participation. 1. Expect the unexpected- parents reported the need to be able to respond to unexpected challenges on the spot. 2. Influence of multiple voices in the school trip process- parents, teachers, aides, destination personnel, and transportation personnel all play an important role in facilitating successful school trip participation. 3. Acceptance and belonging-successful school trips provided the students with disabilities a satisfying experience and a sense of belonging. Unsuccessful school trips resulted in distress and disappointment. 4. Communication and planning-well planned trips anticipated student needs and resulted in greater satisfaction. 5. Environmental considerations- features of the environment heavily influenced the inclusion and participation in school trips.

CONCLUSION: Meaningful inclusion and participation in school fieldtrips is facilitatied by strong communication and planning between the educational team, school trip destination, student and family. There is a wide spectrum of experiences reported ranging from exclusion from activities during school trips to facilitation of full inclusion. Parents of children with disabilities value participation in school trips for the learning and social participation opportunities they afford.

IMPACT: As part of the interdisciplinary educational team, occupational therapists have unique skills in task analysis, environmental assessment, and the self-care needs of children with disabilities. The goal of OT is to improve the educational participation of students with disabilities. OTs can play a primary role in facilitating the inclusion and participation of students with disabilities through the anticipation and understanding of challenges that may occur during school trips and better prepare students, families, educational team members, and destination staff to accommodate and promote inclusion.


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