Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Puppet Shows on Attitudes toward and Knowledge of Individuals with Disabilities

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Puppet Shows on Attitudes toward and Knowledge of Individuals with Disabilities

Article excerpt

Changing people's attitudes toward and knowledge of individuals with disabilities has been a focus of research and practice for many years (Donaldson, 1980; Jones, 1984; Yuker, 1988). This includes efforts to change elementary students' attitudes toward and knowledge of children with disabilities (Jones, Sowell, Jones, & Butler, 1981; Simpson, Parrish, & Cook, 1976; Van Westervelt, Brantley, & Ware, 1983). Despite advances in understanding the factors and conditions contributing to positive attitudes and accurate knowledge of typically developing children toward classmates with disabilities, investigations continue to yield evidence to indicate that misunderstandings and negative attitudes persist (Gash, 1996; Livneh, 1991; Scior, Kan, McLoughlin, & Sheridan, 2010).

Many different types of intervention have been used to influence changes in the attitudes toward and knowledge of individuals with disabilities (Donaldson, 1980; Garcia, Diaz, & Rodriguez, 2009; Hannon, 2007). Garcia et al. examined the literature on eight types of interventions aimed at changing attitudes including, but not limited to, (a) increased personal contact between individuals with and without disabilities, (b) provision of information designed to promote accurate understanding of individuals with disabilities, (c) the use of participatory experiences to engage individuals with and without disabilities in mutually interesting activities (e.g., scouts, sports), (d) interpersonal skill and empathy related training, and (e) engaging children without disabilities in simulations of disabling conditions. The investigators concluded that contact between individuals with and without disabilities, provision of information about individuals with disabilities, and mutually interesting cooperative activities between individuals with and without disabilities were most effective in fostering positive attitudes.

One method used to change attitudes toward and knowledge of individuals with disabilities among elementary-aged children is puppetry (Gronna, Serna, Kennedy, & Prater, 1999; Pitre, Stewart, Adams, Bedard, & Landry, 2007). According to a number of advocates (e.g., Aiello, 1988; Bernier & O'Hare, 2005; Leggett, 2005; Samples, 1981), puppet shows constitute a promising approach for changing attitudes and knowledge because they can reach large numbers of students at a relatively low cost. Two of the most widely used puppet programs are the Kids on the Block puppet troupe (Aiello, 1988; Kids on the Block Inc., 2012) and the Count Me In puppet troupe (Goldberg et al., 1981; PACER Center, 2011). Both of the original puppet troupes, which include puppets representing children with a physical disability, intellectual disability, visual impairment, and hearing impairment, have been the focus of extensive empirical investigation. The puppet shows include scripts for each puppet designed to promote awareness of the different disabilities, communicate misconceptions about each child's condition, provide accurate information about each child's abilities and disability, and allow for a question-and-answer period after the completion of a puppet show. A typical puppet show lasts approximately 45 minutes followed by a 15-min question-and-answer period.

The effectiveness of using puppet shows to change attitudes and knowledge has been questioned by some investigators (e.g., Rosenbaum, Armstrong, & King, 1986b), whereas others contend that puppet shows are an effective method for achieving attitude and knowledge change (e.g., Aiello, 1988). The debate, however, has not been resolved by a systematic review of studies of either the Kids on the Block or Count Me In puppet shows. The purpose of the meta-analysis described in this article was to synthesize findings from studies of both puppet troupes and to identify the conditions under which puppet shows were or were not effective in changing elementary students' attitudes toward and knowledge of individuals with disabilities. …

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