The applicability of a functional approach to social competence in preschool children in need of special support
Sammanfattning: The overall aim of the thesis, with four empirical studies, was to test the applicability of a functional approach in investigating social competence of children in need of special support within the preschool context. The main theoretical framework was systems theory. Study I and II investigated preschool teachers’ definitions of children in need of special support and social competence respectively. Study III was a prevalence study investigating the number of children in need of special support based on traditional disability categories and functional difficulties. In study IV the social competence of children perceived to be in need of special support based on traditional categories and functional difficulties was compared using an observational method. The results in study I showed that teachers adopt either a child perspective or an organizational perspective in defining children in need of special support. The child perspective was related to a greater number of children in need of special support in the preschools, indicating that in preschools with several children in need of special support, teachers are more prone on seeing the needs of individual children, as opposed to the needs of the organisation. Study II found that teachers define social competence in young children in terms of intrapersonal skills, or as interpersonal relations. Study III found that the majority of children in need of special support are undiagnosed children with functional difficulties related to speech- and language and peer interaction. Study IV found similar profiles of social competence between diagnosed children and undiagnosed children perceived to be in need of special support. Overall, the results yielded support for adopting a functional approach in studying the social competence of children in need of special support.
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