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Cheryl Tyler-Balkcom


Studies that expressly define the roles of related service providers in inclusive schools are limited. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to examine the lived experiences of related service providers, specifically occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech and language pathologists, who practice in an inclusive education setting. An objective was to examine their attitudes and beliefs toward inclusion. This study used role theory as the theoretical framework. Tenets of role theory were used to explain how related service providers have come to understand their roles and responsibilities in the inclusion setting. Purposeful and snowball sampling yielded 10 participants who participated in semi-structured interviews. Data were analyzed using a multistep, phenomenological analysis method. The participants' descriptions of their involvement in inclusion revealed 7 themes: Expert/consultant, evaluator, direct service provider, mainstreaming, methods of collaboration, member of a multidisciplinary team, and documentation. Findings suggest a strong correlation between the perceived roles of the participants and the generic roles reported in the literature. Three themes emerged from their descriptions of their attitudes toward inclusion: general definition of inclusion, social/behavioral effects on inclusion, and barriers to inclusive education. The participants' views on the behavioral and social impact of inclusive education were mixed. Findings inform stakeholders about the day to day experiences of related service providers in an inclusion setting. This study represents a steppingstone toward increasing awareness of school-based professionals' contributions to the educational experience of special education students.

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