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The Social Experiences of High School Students with Visual Impairments — JVIB Abstract

Abstract: Introduction: This study explores the social experiences in high school of students with visual impairments. Methods: Experience sampling methodology was used to examine (a) how socially included students with visual impairments feel, (b) the internal qualities of their activities, and (c) the factors that influence a sense of inclusion. Twelve students, including three with additional disabilities, completed the Psychological Sense of School Membership (PSSM) questionnaire as a measure of inclusion. They were subsequently asked to complete an in-the-moment survey seven times daily for one week using an iOS device. This survey asked about activities and ratings of internal variables: fitting in, acceptance, loneliness, awareness, and enjoyment. Each student was also interviewed. Z-scores were created for internal variables and correlations calculated to examine relationships between experiences, PSSM, and demographic variables. Results: This group felt included as measured by the PSSM (m = 4.24, SD = .67). Students' most frequent activity was classwork. Doing nothing rated most negatively and was described as time wasting. Out-of-class activities were rated most positively. In the three participants with additional disabilities, it appeared that the presence of this additional disability negatively influenced a sense of inclusion (rb = −.67, p ≤ .05), fitting in (rb = −.86, p ≤ .05), enjoyment (rb = −.65, p ≤ .05), and loneliness (rb = .88, p ≤ .05). Interviews revealed a lack of common ground between adolescents with both visual impairments and additional disabilities and their peers. Discussion and implications for practitioners: These students worked hard to maintain parity with peers and found school more enjoyable if they fit in. It is important to provide discreet and timely access to the curriculum. Friendships require time, common interests, and reciprocity. There may be potential to further explore out-of-class clubs as a means of supporting friendship development. In addition, findings suggest that students with additional disabilities are not likely to feel included. Because this population comprises the majority of visually impaired students, this result has serious implications for practitioners and should be examined in future research.


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