Participation-related constructs and participation of children with additional support needs in schools

Dev Med Child Neurol. 2023 Apr;65(4):498-508. doi: 10.1111/dmcn.15390. Epub 2022 Sep 25.


Aim: To investigate associations between participation-related constructs and participation frequency and involvement in inclusive schools.

Method: In this cross-sectional study, teachers of children with additional support needs, including intellectual disability, autism, and learning difficulties, completed measures. Participation-related constructs were measured using the School Participation Questionnaire; participation frequency and involvement were measured using the Participation and Environment Measure for Children and Youth. A series of multilevel linear mixed-effects regression models with maximum likelihood estimates and bootstrap confidence intervals with p-values were obtained. Final models included participation-related constructs and participation, controlling for demographic and diagnostic confounders (including age, sex, language, level of school support, and autism).

Results: Six hundred and eighty-eight children (448 [65.1%] males; mean age 8 years 7 months [range 4 years 10 months-12 years 13 months, standard deviation 2 years 1 months]) were assessed by 252 teachers. Across a series of models, participation-related constructs were consistently associated with more intensive participation (competence, environment, identity p < 0.001; symptoms p = 0.007), independent of confounders. More frequent participation remained associated with three of four participation-related constructs (competence, identity p < 0.001; environment p = 0.021). Age (p = 0.046), language (p = 0.002), and level of school support (p = 0.039) also remained significantly associated with frequency of participation.

Interpretation: Children with additional support needs in inclusive schools may have several participation barriers. Policies and interventions to improve participation are needed.

What this paper adds: Across a series of models, participation-related constructs were associated with frequency and intensity of participation. Only participation-related constructs were associated with participation intensity. Demographic and diagnostic variables were associated with frequency, not intensity, of participation. Teacher assessment is valid for assessment of participation and participation-related constructs.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intellectual Disability*
  • Male
  • Schools*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires