Academic journal article The Journal of Special Education and Rehabilitation

Inclusive Education of Blind and Visually Impaired Pupils in Slovenia

Academic journal article The Journal of Special Education and Rehabilitation

Inclusive Education of Blind and Visually Impaired Pupils in Slovenia

Article excerpt

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Introduction

In the last decade, important changes have occurred in Europe and internationally in the attitudes towards the treatment of children with special needs. In Slovenia, nine groups of children with special needs are recognized: children with mental disability, deaf and hearing impaired children, blind and visually impaired children, children with language and speech impairments, children with physical disability, children with learning problems in specific fields of education, children with emotional and behavioural problems, children with long-term illness, and children with autistic disorders. Educational systems have adapted to the changes in the attitudes towards the treatment of children with special needs by becoming more inclusive. Inclusive education represents a commitment to include all children with special needs in regular schools because such inclusion benefits all children (1, 2). Different institutes state that the part of population that needs adaptations in their wider community and in the educational process grows every year (3). At present, the percentage of pupils with special needs in Slovenia is 8 to 10 percent of compulsory school-going population (4), 1 percent of which are blind and visually impaired. The requirement for increased inclusion of children with special needs into mainstream educational system is imposed on the countries by a number of international documents, among which the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is the most important (5).

A shift towards a more inclusive education for all children with special needs requires a changed role of specialized institutes. Many European countries transformed their specia- lized institutes into resource centres for children with special needs. The centres that offer support to visually impaired persons have both educational and advisory function. They contribute to the development of the profession in the area of providing help to the blind and visually impaired, and they include other social partners with the purpose of enabling these people with special needs to lead an independent life as much as possible. The comparison of European educational models and holistic approach to the treatment of children with special needs show that many European states have established centres for helping children with special needs, consequently also for the children with visual impairment. Austria, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland already have such centres, while Cyprus and Portugal are elaborating their legislation on educating children with special needs (6). Such centres create conditions for successful inclusion with their activities, and meet the needs of numerous target groups (7, 8). They offer expert support to the blind and visually impaired children, to their parents, to the inclusive schools, and to the area of tiflopedagogy, medicine, and other scientific areas that provide rehabilitation to those who suffered loss of vision later in life.

In Slovenia we do not have such a centre, despite the need. The State of Slovenia adopted a legislative regulation for inclusive education in 2000, and individual blind children had been included in regular schools also before that time. According to the current school legislation in Slovenia, every larger content and organizational change has to be implemented in a controlled manner, which means that before its implementation, every change has to be carefully piloted and monitored to obtain empirical data about its desired effect. In this way, the improvement of special conditions was established, and a sensory garden was built based on the Norwegian financial mechanism (Norway Grant).

This paper reports the evaluation of a pilot inclusive education for blind and visually impaired children in Slovenia that has the following objectives:

1. To determine the competences of the educators who work with blind and visually impaired pupils;

2. …

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