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Bullying or befriending? Childrens responses to classmates with special needs

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Norah Frederickson

Children with special educational needs are generally less accepted, more rejected and more likely to be victims of bullying than their typically developing classmates. However, they are sometimes treated more favourably than classmates, more like friends than acquaintances. In this article, based on her contribution to the Gulliford Lecture series, Norah Frederickson of University College London argues that attributional processes which appear central to the establishment of peer acceptance and supportive relationships are more likely to be triggered when a childs difculties are severe or obvious, classmates are older and explanatory information is given to them. Schools are sometimes reluctant to discuss the special needs of a pupil with their classmates due to concerns about labelling. However, the literature on labelling suggests that such concerns have been exaggerated and that labels can sometimes serve a protective function. Norah Frederickson suggests that respectful, helping relationships between typically developing classmates and pupils with special needs are valued by young people, their parents and teachers, and can build to friendships within a context of positive opportunities for interaction. Key words: bullying, special educational needs, peer acceptance, interaction.

have reported small positive benets of inclusion (Baker, Wang & Walberg, 19945; Lindsay, 2007), reviews comparing social outcomes within inclusive settings have found that pupils with special educational needs are generally less accepted and more rejected than their typically developing classmates (Gresham & MacMillan, 1997; Nakken & Pijl, 2002). These ndings are concerning both because they indicate that inclusive education is not fullling its promise for many pupils with special educational needs and their classmates, and because low social status is associated with other risks to development and well-being. Low social acceptance increases the risk of victimisation and children with special educational needs typically experience higher levels of bullying than their classmates (Carter & Spencer, 2006; Monchy, Pijl & Zandberg, 2004). Negative longer-term consequences of peer rejection in primary school have also been reported. These include higher levels of academic problems, discipline problems and truancy in secondary school (Coie, Terry, Lenox & Lochman, 1995); dropping out of education early and delinquency in adolescence (Ollendick, Weist, Borden & Green, 1992); and mental health problems in early adulthood (Roff, 1990). Risks in these areas for children with special educational needs may also be increased by poor social status. Amid the predominately worrying ndings there are some which suggest that children with special educational needs can be treated more favourably by their classmates. It is on these ndings that this article will focus. In particular it will consider the processes involved, the psychological mechanisms responsible for classmates attitudes and behaviours and the strategies used in schools to promote these positive responses. A range of implications are considered which challenge some existing practice and received wisdom. In particular it is argued that the risks associated with labelling of children with special educational needs have been overstated. Instead there is evidence that including the peer group in open communication about special needs and responses is an important foundation in many cases for building positive classroom relationships. Clearly there is a need for the full agreement of the pupils involved and their parents, but too often this is not even discussed. The extent to which pupils with special educational needs are different from their peers, whether it is acceptable to

Introduction International developments towards inclusive education for children with special educational needs have been based on human rights considerations in which anticipated social benets have featured centrally. Inclusion has been seen as a means of: removing the stigma associated with segregated placements, facilitating the modelling of appropriate social behavior by children with disabilities, and enhancing the social status of pupils with disabilities . . . (Roberts & Zubrick, 1992, p. 192) More broadly, it has been predicted that inclusive schooling will beget a younger generation that is more tolerant and accepting of difference (Thomas, 1997). To date, reviews of research evidence on social outcomes of inclusion have produced equivocal conclusions. While reviews comparing inclusive settings with separate special schools or classes

2010 The Author(s). Journal compilation 2010 NASEN. Published by Blackwell Publishing, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford, OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main St, Malden, MA, 02148, USA. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8578.2009.00452.x

highlight differences and the value to teachers of knowledge about different types of special needs are subjects that have all been debated. Ron Gulliford, for whose memorial lecture this article was prepared, was a persuasive advocate of the role for specialist knowledge at a point when the pendulum had swung very much in the other direction. Gulliford and Upton (1992, p. 9) argued that: relevant and necessary knowledge about impairments and disabilities which may contribute to the development of handicap and which may limit educational progress have tended to be ignored in the enthusiasm for generic understanding and intervention . . . a generic approach can be made more effective if informed by awareness of specic problems associated with particular impairments . . . and ways in which those problems may be responded to most effectively. In recent years the importance for teachers of being aware of specic problems and best ways in which to respond has clearly been established with reference to pupils who have autistic spectrum disorders (DfES, 2002). These pupils have also been an important group in the recent development of and research on approaches to informing and engaging peers. However, there are a number of different strands of research, focusing on different special needs, that may be helpful in informing practice at this time, which will be reviewed in this article.

Frederickson and Furnham (2004) drew on social exchange theory in accounting for these differences in the associations between childrens behavioural characteristics and their peer group acceptance or rejection. Social exchange theory holds that children will interact with others where the benets of interaction (for example, in terms of enjoyment, access to resources, achievement of success, feeling good about oneself and receiving praise from adults) outweigh the costs (for example, in terms of compromise, sharing ones own resources and being the target of undesirable behaviour). Different children have different comparison levels, or cost-benet ratios, for deciding whether to interact with a specic classmate. These may depend on expectations based on past experience and on current environmental factors such as who else is available. It was suggested that for the children with special educational needs who were receiving part-time withdrawal support there was evidence of adjustment of the comparison level and the application of different, more lenient, standards of behaviour, involving lower expectations of benets and higher toleration of costs. Social exchange theory can also predict features of the social environment likely to affect intention to interact with classmates who have special educational needs. For example, Frederickson and Furnham (1998) found that the costs, as opposed to benets, of interaction were higher in classes that were less cohesive. A different type of relationship An alternative conceptualisation of these ndings can be based on the distinction that has been drawn between relationships based on social exchange and communal relationships (Clark & Mills, 1993). The symmetrical behavioural assessments received from classmates by typically developing children are consistent with the application of exchange relationship norms. Exchange relationships are held to characterise business exchanges and interactions with acquaintances. There is reciprocity in the exchange of closely comparably benets and equitable distribution of rewards to those who have earned them. By contrast, in communal relationships, which are exemplied by close friendships and family bonds, members feel a broad sense of responsibility for the others welfare. They are likely to give without looking for a matching payback in kind and to share what they have equally regardless of individual inputs/costs. Clark and Mills (1993) identify a third type of relationship, an asymmetrical communal relationship which would be established with another deserving of special support but unable to reciprocate. This might be typied by a parental relationship with a young child. The asymmetrical assessments received by children with special educational needs suggest a special responsiveness to their social needs, consistent with the application of asymmetrical communal norms. Many case studies of relationships between children with special educational needs and their typically developing classmates also support this conceptualisation. For example, Although there is undeniable warmth between the children, most of the comments and non-verbal interactions reect a helperhelpee relationship, not a reciprocal friendship (Van der Klift & Kunc,

Different reasons for acceptance and rejection The rst group of studies to be considered focuses on children who have moderate learning difculties (MLD).These studies report less favourable social status for children with MLD than for their mainstream classmates, where social status is assessed by peer reports of willingness to associate in work and social contexts in school. However, the behavioural characteristics associated with peer group acceptance and rejection have been found to differ for children who have special educational needs as compared to their typically developing classmates (Frederickson & Furnham, 2004; Nabuzoka & Smith, 1993; Roberts & Zubrick, 1992; Taylor, Asher & Williams, 1987). The majority of typically developing children who were rejected by classmates scored high on negative social behaviours (such as aggression) and low on positive social behaviours (such as co-operation). The opposite pattern of scores, high on positive and low on negative behaviours, was found for well-accepted typically developing children. By contrast, children with special educational needs who were rejected did not show a symmetrical pattern: they had low scores on benecial behaviours, but did not have high scores on anti-social behaviours. Asymmetry was also apparent in differentiating the small proportion of children with special educational needs who were well accepted by their peers from those whose acceptance was average. For children with special educational needs, only low levels of anti-social behaviours, rather than high levels of positive behaviours, were characteristic of good peer acceptance.

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2002), and The interactions, although tending to be highly positive, had the feel of a parental type of role on the part of the children without disabilities (Evans, Goldberg-Arnold & Dickson, 1998). In an experimental test of these ideas, Frederickson and Simmonds (2008) investigated the way in which children, aged eight to nine years and 10 to 11 years, distributed rewards jointly earned for work done with classmates who were best friends, neutrally regarded acquaintances or peers with special educational needs. The peers with special educational needs were children with autistic spectrum disorder, included full-time in a very well set up and supported programme. They were identied by the classmates involved as individuals with whom they either liked to play or with whom they didnt mind playing. The children in this study were given a task to nish which they were told had been started by one of their classmates, who had done about a third of it. When the classmate was someone they had previously rated as a neutrally regarded acquaintance, children tended to divide stickers with them in proportion to how much of the task each had completed, taking two-thirds themselves and giving their classmate one-third. By contrast when they were told that the classmate was someone they had identied as a best friend they tended to divide the stickers equally, even though they had earned more. The same tendency to divide the stickers equally was also shown when the classmate was a child with special educational needs, even though none of the children with special educational needs had been identied as a best friend of the children involved. The ndings of this study are represented diagrammatically in Figure 1. In addition to the way in which the stickers were divided, equally or equitably, the groups differed on whether the contributions of each partner were monitored or not. It was explained to the children that if they completed the task with a different coloured pen from the black pen used by their partner they would be able to keep track of how much they had done, as opposed to how much had already been done by their partner. This would be very important with acquaintances in ensuring fair, equitable distribution of stickers. With friends, however, it would not be relevant, as it would be considered important to share equally, irrespective of individual contributions. In the case of peers with special educational needs, monitoring would also be expected in order to identify whether this was a task on

which the child with special educational needs performed less well and would therefore warrant special allowances. The results with older children provided support for construing the befriending of pupils with special educational needs in terms of the establishment of asymmetrical communal relationships. Older children treated children with special educational needs like best friends in sharing rewards equally with them, but treated them like acquaintances in monitoring their contribution to the task. Younger children did not show signicant sensitivity to relationship type in terms of reward allocation or monitoring this sort of age effect is found in other areas of research on classmates responses to children with special educational needs and will be discussed further later. Attributional triggering mechanisms So the prevailing nding in the literature is that children with special educational needs experience lower social acceptance and higher levels of rejection than their typically developing classmates. However, where the factors and processes associated with peer group acceptance have been investigated, these children with special educational needs appear to be given special consideration and more favourably treated. In addition, a number of studies, most commonly focusing on pupils who have severe learning difculties, have reported the development of positive and caring relationships by peers towards classmates who have special educational needs (Evans, Salisbury, Palombaro, Berryman & Hollowood, 1992; Staub, Schwartz, Gallucci & Peck, 1994). How can these apparently conicting ndings be reconciled? Attribution theory has proved useful in accounting for these disparities in the literature. Juvonen and Weiner (1993) summarise a series of studies using the model shown in Figure 2. Events perceived as different or discrepant from expectations trigger attributional analysis as individuals attempt to explain them: Why does Jack always hit people? Why does Nisha cry so easily? Peers causal attributions, in particular their judgement of the individuals control over and responsibility for their deviant behaviour, appear to be important in inuencing their feelings and actions towards the individual. Attribution of responsibility tends to lead to anger and rejection, whereas sympathy and pro-social reactions tend to follow from the judgement that it is not their fault. Findings from studies in Finland and the USA indicated that 11- to 12-year-olds asked to nominate classmates different from others indicated that those displaying antiFigure 2: The relationships between perceived responsibility, emotions and social responses toward classmate deviant behaviour

Figure 1: Reward allocation and monitoring in different relationship types

Acquaintance Monitoring required Relationship Equitable - outcomes match inputs [Exchange relationship]

Perceived responsibility
Equal-if needed [Asymmetrical communal relationship] Classmate with SEN Best friend Equal [Symmetrical communal relationship]

Note: adapted from Juvonen & Weiner (1993).

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Social support

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social behaviour were considered responsible for their deviance whereas shy classmates or those with disabilities were not. Children attribute intentions to others from a young age as they attempt to make sense of the world around them, often largely automatically. From the early years they also notice and react to others atypical behaviour or appearance (Hennessy, Swords & Heary, 2008; Nabors & Keyes, 1997). While cognitive processes underlying the logical linkage of attributions, expectations and behavioural prescriptions develop later in childhood, providing information to younger children is effective in inuencing their attributions and behaviour. For example, Sigelman and Begley (1987) found that children aged ve to six years and eight to nine years responded to causal information about controllability in evaluating blame towards hypothetical peers who were obese, aggressive or in a wheelchair, or had learning difculties. Without this information all except the child in the wheelchair were blamed, although with age, increasing emphasis was placed on external causes. Even at pre-school level childrens knowledge about disabilities has been found to positively inuence acceptance, over and above the effects of having the opportunity to interact in an inclusive educational setting (Diamond, Hestenes, Carpenter & Innes, 1997). Indeed, without the provision of relevant information interaction may only produce more favourable attitudes where disabilities are highly visible. For example, Newberry and Parish (1987) found that interaction produced more favourable attitudes in 8- to 11-year-olds for severe learning difculties, physical difculties and hearing and visual impairments, but not specic learning difculties. This research has important implications for the promotion of inclusion and, in particular, for children with special educational needs who are less obviously disabled. It would appear that more positive attitudes towards children who have special educational needs can be fostered if their special category membership is clearly apparent to other children. This appears contradictory to the critiques of labelling that played an important role in the early advocacy of integration. For example, Dunn (1968) argued that labels such as mentally retarded, in common use at that time, served as a destructive, self-fullling prophecy. However, research on labelling does not support the view that it must be avoided at all costs, and indeed there is much evidence that labelling can have some benecial and protective effects. Labelling: risk or protection? Each of these aspects of labelling (risks and protective effects) will now be considered in turn. First, what is the evidence that using labels increases the risk that children with special educational needs will experience peer rejection and other negative outcomes? Much of the evidence for negative consequences on self-esteem, peer rejection, reduced levels of expectation and aspiration comes from methodologically weak early studies in which the use of a label is confounded with deviant behaviours associated with the label (MacMillan, Jones & Aloia, 1974). Subse-

quent research that has separated these elements has predominately shown that negative peer group attitudes are more inuenced by a childs undesirable behaviour than by a categorical label. For example, videotapes of children engaging in positive or negative behaviours were shown to 8- to 12-year-old viewers, half of whom were told that the child was in a special class for the retarded (Van Bourgondien, 1987). The childs social behaviours, but not the label, had a signicant negative effect on the viewers attitudes towards them. Similar ndings have been obtained with labels in current use. The attitudes and behavioural intentions of 11- to 12-year-old children towards hypothetical peers with attention decit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) were assessed through response to vignettes (Law, Sinclair & Fraser, 2007). Attitudes towards the characters in the vignettes were found to be mainly negative and there was a signicant relationship between attitudes and willingness to engage in social, academic and physical activities, suggesting that the behaviours typical of children with AD/HD could lead to substantial levels of exclusion by classmates. However, the use of the label had no additional inuence upon attitudes or behavioural intentions. Only 8% of the children in this study reported knowing about AD/HD. The second aspect of the labelling literature to be considered here is the evidence that a special educational needs label may sometimes have a protective effect in helping to modify negative attitudes held by mainstream peers towards children with special educational needs who exhibit poor social behaviour. However, there are still caveats, as the following two studies illustrate. Bak and Siperstein (1986) showed 9to 12-year-olds a video of a child reading aloud. Conditions varied in terms of whether the child was labelled mentally retarded and whether they were described as socially withdrawn or aggressive. When the child was described as withdrawn, the viewers attitudes were less negative when the label was used, suggesting that the label had a protective effect. However, this did not hold if the behaviour was described as aggressive. In this case, the use of the label made no signicant difference. Bromeld, Weisz and Messer (1986) showed a video to pupils in Years 4, 7 and 10 in which a child failed a puzzle task. Half of the pupils were told the child was mentally retarded and among the Year 7 and 10 pupils this information produced higher friendship ratings. These pupils were also less likely to attribute the childs failure to low effort, and they considered there was less need to urge the child to persist in trying to succeed at the task. The authors describe this pattern of ndings as benevolent the label appeared to mitigate potentially adverse effects of failure on perceptions by other children. They also suggest a differential frame of reference effect involving the use of a less demanding standard of comparison. While there are clearly benets in terms of willingness to befriend and help, there would also appear to be dangers of underexpectation and provision of so much support that learning is inhibited, rather than facilitated.

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The broader implications of this research are that clearly acknowledging differences, as well as what children with special educational needs have in common with their classmates, appears more likely to promote their inclusion than failing to recognise or address the differences that exist. Clearly it is not as easy as simply providing a label. The systematic provision of relevant information to classmates requires careful consideration. A range of studies that have attempted to do this are reviewed in the next section. Effective peer education Campbell and colleagues have conducted a number of studies on primary school pupils attitudes towards a child with autism who was presented as someone who might be joining their school. Positive effects on attitudes and willingness to interact were demonstrated following the provision of information by a range of means: via videotape materials; from an adult, such as a teacher or mental health professional; and from the young person with autism themselves. Drawing on social psychological theory, Campbell (2006) identies four components of persuasive communication: the source (who), message (what), channel/ medium (how) and receiver/target/audience (to whom) and argues that these should be investigated in developing the knowledge base about how most effectively to present initial information to classmates. Morton and Campbell (2008) found that 10- to 11-year-olds reported more willingness to interact with the prospective classmate with autism when explanatory information was presented by a professional (teacher or doctor) or via videotape voice-over than when it was presented by one of the childs parents. Overall, the childrens class teacher proved the most persuasive source. In another study 13-year-olds viewed a videotape of a 14-year-old male actor engaging in behaviours such as hand apping, body rocking and echolalia (Campbell, 2007). Three-quarters of the participants then received further information in a pamphlet prepared by the pupil in the video which was descriptive, or explanatory, or descriptive and explanatory. Descriptive information focused on what the pupil liked to do and emphasised broad similarities between them and the participants. Explanatory information included the following: I have autism, which means that theres something wrong with my brain that makes it hard for me to look at other people and talk to them . . . Sometimes I wave my hands around . . . or rock back and forth . . . I have a hard time changing activities . . . I dont mean to be different or hard to get along with. Im not trying to make trouble; I do these things because I have autism. But I can learn to do many of the things that people without autism can do . . . I just need some help to learn how to do these things. (Campbell, 2007, pp. 172173) Explanatory information resulted in greater willingness to interact than descriptive information, whereas descriptive information alone resulted in lower willingness to interact.

It can be seen that the explanatory information provided in Campbells studies was quite well elaborated. Some studies have not found an impact of explanatory information on typically developing peers perceptions of children with physical disabilities (Nabors & Larson, 2002), sometimes even when perceptions of responsibility have decreased (Sigelman, 1991). It should be noted that attitudes to children in wheelchairs in these studies were already positive, prior to the provision of the causal information, and the explanations tended to be brief and lacking in elaboration. There is clearly a need for further research focused on a range of special needs. In addition, all the studies so far described in this section have discussed hypothetical rather than real peers, raising questions about ecological validity. One study that does speak to the validity of educating real peers is the ethnographic study of inclusive placements for children with high-functioning autism conducted by Ochs, Kremer-Sadlik, Solomon and Sirota (2001). They found that those pupils whose diagnosis was most fully disclosed, in particular to classmates, received better social support within the classroom and during playground activities. A particularly stark contrast was drawn between a girl whose diagnosis was not even known to school staff prior to the start of the study and two boys whose parents were very actively involved in giving information to classmates about their son as a whole person, as well as explaining (in childfriendly language) his support needs, the reasons for them and how best to help. While it was observed that the girl often encountered negative reactions from peers, the two boys typically received caring responses from classmates, who made a consistent collective effort to involve and include them. In the Ochs et al. (2001) study, peer education was only one of the practices described and one of the dimensions on which the inclusive educational contexts described in that article differed. While the initial introduction process is but one component of a comprehensive approach to effective inclusive education, it is foundational to other recommended strategies, such as peer tutoring, cooperative learning and utilising peer supports. Hunt, Alwell, Farron-Davies and Goetz (1996) described a three-component programme for promoting the social inclusion in primary schools of pupils with multiple difculties: informing classmates about pupils with special needs, using multiple media to stimulate interaction and supporting social interactions through a range of strategies such as setting up joint activities or buddy systems. Interviews with classmates and teachers provided evidence of the effectiveness of this intervention in increasing positive interaction between the children with special educational needs and their peers and securing equivalent levels of acceptance. In the following section a case illustration is presented of a successful inclusion programme in which peer preparation plays an important role. The outcomes, in terms of bullying and befriending, are reviewed and the reasons given for peer acceptance and rejection are examined in considering further the nature of the relationships between children with different levels and types of special needs.

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2010 The Author(s). Journal compilation 2010 NASEN

Bullying or befriending: a case illustration The success of a special-school-based inclusion team was evaluated by Frederickson, Simmonds, Evans and Soulsby (2007). Fourteen Key Stage 2 pupils (12 of whom had Statements for autistic spectrum disorder), who had been supported by the inclusion team in transferring from a full-time placement in the special school to a full-time placement in a mainstream school local to their home, were followed up. In the work of the inclusion team, good planning and preparation was stressed, with a phased individual inclusion programme being developed according to each childs needs. This typically involved a range of advice, resources, collaborative teaching and other support. Social and affective aspects were carefully considered throughout, and a peer preparation package was developed for use with mainstream classes prior to and during the early stages of introduction of pupils from the special school. The package included workshop activities, led by an inclusion team member and the class teacher, which provided descriptive and explanatory information and elicited ideas from the pupils aimed at promoting supportive interactions. Evaluation of the social and affective outcomes of the programme found that these former special school pupils did not differ from typically developing classmates in peer-assessed social acceptance and rejection. However, pupils from the mainstream classes who had less severe special needs (on their schools special needs register at School Action or School Action Plus) were less accepted and more rejected than either the former special school pupils or their typically achieving classmates (Frederickson et al., 2007). Other studies have reported similar ndings in relation to low achieving pupils whose special needs are milder or not formally identied (Lewis & Lewis, 1988; Sale & Carey, 1995). In these cases there is nothing to signal to classmates that these pupils are deserving of special consideration. Indeed Frederickson et al. (2007) found that while there was a nonsignicant trend towards higher levels of victimisation being experienced by the former special school pupils, in the case of the pupils on the school special educational needs register, the trend was for higher levels of engagement in bullying behaviour. This is not the kind of behaviour likely to elicit sympathy and support from peers, although approaches such as Circles of Friends have been used successfully to change classmates perspectives on the reasons for antisocial behaviour and the perpetrators need for peer support (Newton, Taylor & Wilson, 1996; Frederickson & Turner, 2003). While the former special school pupils were not found by Frederickson et al. (2007) to differ from typically developing classmates on peer acceptance and rejection scores, further investigation of the reasons given for the ratings given did reveal a number of differences. This investigation, which was carried out with Liz Simmonds and Jane Lang, involved 159 children who were interviewed individually about the reasons for selecting particular pupils as someone they liked/didnt mind/preferred not to play/go round with at school. Each child was asked, in random order, about one typically developing child in each category, and about the former special school pupil.

The questions the children were asked, together with a content analysis, following Vaughn, Schumm and Sinagub (1996), of the responses they gave are shown in Tables 1 and 2. Table 1 shows that for both the included former special school pupils and their typically developing classmates the

Table 1: Reasons given for accepting classmates You said you liked to play/go around with X. Can you tell me the reasons why you like to go around with them?
Included (n = 69) Benevolence Positive traits Lack of negative traits Reciprocal friendship Shared experiences Other Total reasons 8 58 9 12 18 5 110 Typical (n = 69) 2 59 3 18 25 5 112

Illustrative quotations Benevolence: He doesnt have many friends and Im there to help him. He sometimes gets picked on. Positive traits: She is really funny, happy and always jolly. He is kind and wants people to play with him. Lack of negative traits: Hes just not rough and all that. Because hes not horrible. Reciprocal friendship: We get on really well. Just a good friend really. Shared experiences: She likes to skip with me. Cause he kind of likes the same stuff. Other: for example, dont know.

Table 2: Reasons given for rejecting classmates You said you preferred not to go around with X. Can you tell me the reasons why you preferred not to go around with them?
Included (n = 38) Negative traits Limited contact Gender difference Different/interests Others choice Other Total reasons 21 6 4 7 5 9 52 Typical (n = 38) 30 1 4 2 3 9 49

Illustrative quotations Negative traits: He gets into ghts. Everyone in the class says she stinks. Limited contact: I havent had time to play with her. I never really play or talk to him. Gender difference: I dont really hang around with girls. Different/interest: I am completely different from him. He likes different things to what I like. Others choice: He doesnt like playing with anybody really. Shes got other friends. Other: for example, dont know.

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most important reasons for peer acceptance made reference to positive characteristics. Overall there were more similarities than differences across the groups in the reasons given. However, reciprocal friendships and shared experiences tended to be mentioned more often for the typical group, while benevolent reasons and the absence of negative traits were more often mentioned for included pupils. Reasons for peer rejection likewise were broadly similar across groups. Negative traits (see Table 2) were slightly more likely to be mentioned for typical classmates, while limited contact and differences were more likely to be mentioned for the included pupils. There are some parallels between the ndings obtained from the Key Stage 2 pupils in the investigation just described and the ndings of Meyer, Minondo, Fisher, Larson, Dunmore, Black and DAquanni (1998) with 11- to 15-year-olds. These early adolescent pupils tended to give different reasons for friendships with peers with and without severe disabilities. For typically developing pupils, reasons focused on sharing secrets and enjoying similar activities and interests. For pupils with special educational needs, reasons focused instead on helping them or thinking they were fun or nice.

From their observational and interview study of the inclusion of early adolescents with severe learning difculties, Meyer et al. (1998) identied six frames of friendship:

Ghosts and Guests the pupil with special educational needs is invisible or is clearly viewed as an outsider. the Inclusion Kid/Different Friend different, generally more benign, standards of behaviour and consequences are applied. Ill Help a range of helping behaviour was shown; sometimes children adopted the manner and voice of a teacher or adult helper. Just Another Kid/Student expectations are the same (or parallel, with modications) as for other pupils. Being referred to as just another kid tended to lead to neutrally regarded acquaintance status. Regular Friend not a best friend, but in the circle of friends just outside that. Best Friend inner circle, seen outside as well as inside school.

True friendship? Apparent qualitative differences such as those reported in the previous section have given rise to concerns that relationships between young people with and without disabilities lack essential components without which they are unlikely to be sustainable. Such concerns have been expressed by a number of authors: Unless help is reciprocal, the inherent inequity between helper and helpee will contaminate the authenticity of a relationship (Van der Klift & Kunc, 2002). Marks (1997) also argues that when unidirectional neediness is enshrined in the classroom such as setting up peer supports to help the child with disability without offering that child a chance to help others this is not a good basis for a healthy, lasting friendship. However, as has been discussed earlier, a strictly accounted exchange of closely comparable benets is not in any case characteristic of the communal relationships enjoyed by friends. Grenot-Scheyer, Staub, Peck and Schwartz (1998) challenge the view that friendships must involve full reciprocity and mutuality. They argue for a broader conceptualisation of the reciprocal benets of friendship, and Meyer et al. (1998) suggest that the feelings and self-esteem that arise from helping someone else provide as much personal reinforcement as those generated by sharing secrets or playing the same games together.

These frames were discussed with a range of constituency groups: parents, teachers, classmates, university researchers, community activists. All perceived the Regular Friends and Best Friends frames positively, while the Ghost/Guest frame was regarded negatively by all. However, there were different perspectives on the Ill Help frame. While those more distant from the everyday lives of the young people concerned tended to view it more negatively, it was valued by parents and teachers and was the most common reason given by classmates as to why they named a pupil with severe learning difculties as a friend. The Inclusion Kid/ Different Friend was regarded predominantly positively by parents and teachers, and also by others when a need for greater protection than was typical for a persons age was felt to be necessary. Just Another Kid/Student also produced mixed reactions. Some saw it as an acceptable status to have with some, but not with all, peers. However, others viewed this frame negatively, where they felt that being treated differently was needed as an accommodation for the pupils disability. Given this range of views, it would seem premature to conclude that one type of friendship has more or less value than another. Further research is needed to develop a better understanding of the relative characteristics and affordances of different relationship types, and of the conditions that promote a range of positive, supportive and respectful relationships with children who have special educational needs. This in turn will be of substantial importance in designing inclusive education programmes that more effectively realise their anticipated social benets.


British Journal of Special Education Volume 37 Number 1 2010

2010 The Author(s). Journal compilation 2010 NASEN

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British Journal of Special Education Volume 37 Number 1 2010

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Address for correspondence: Norah Frederickson Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology University College London Gower Street London WC1E 6BT Email: n.frederickson@ucl.ac.uk Article submitted: November 2009 Accepted for publication: November 2009


British Journal of Special Education Volume 37 Number 1 2010

2010 The Author(s). Journal compilation 2010 NASEN

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