Are you listening : what students with high-incidence disabilities can tell their teachers about school engagement

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Abstract
The purpose of this study was to understand the school experience of students with designations and their level of engagement in school. This phenomenological study examined the students’ feelings about school engagement and the supports and adaptations that they received. The six participants, who were either recent graduates or students attending an alternative school and who had a Learning Disability or Intensive Behaviour and Mental Health designation, were interviewed. These designations were categories assigned to the student by the School District Psychologist following a psychoeducational assessment. The lived experience of students who required behavioural and academic support was essential because they had greater struggles, were at a greater risk, and required greater understanding of their individual learning needs when compared to other students. Even when a motivating learning environment, learning support, and opportunity for social engagement were in place, students often found it challenging to be successful. The qualitative data was analyzed to determined common themes about school engagement. Autonomy, purpose and mastery were common themes that arose as a result of the insights provided by the students. This study hoped to address the reasons why students with designations continued to struggle and what the education system could do to effectively support them.
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