New Methods of Special Education

by Satu Uusiautti (Volume editor) Kaarina Määttä (Volume editor)
©2018 Edited Collection 278 Pages


This book introduces research and solutions tested in schools with students with intellectual disabilities, socio-emotional difficulties, and extreme illnesses. It also provides extremely talented students’ opinions on best teaching practices. In addition to students, the authors aim to bring out voices of their parents, teachers, and other people supporting them. The book serves people working with questions of special education: practitioners, researchers, and teachers and students in the field of special education worldwide. The authors present successful study processes which are secured by caring interaction, flexible, and student-centered teaching and multi-professional collaboration. The elements of caring education are the guiding principles of new special education.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Contributors
  • Forewords
  • 1. Introduction
  • Challenges of Special Education (Kaarina Määttä / Tanja Äärelä / Satu Uusiautti)
  • 2. Boosting Belief in Learning among Students with Intellectual Disabilities and Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Children with ASD as Members of Social Learning Environments (Seija Kangas / Satu Uusiautti / Kaarina Määttä)
  • Viewpoints to Facilitated Communication Methods among People with Autism (Anna-Kaisa Sipilä / Kaarina Määttä)
  • A Good Study Path according to Young Adults with Intellectual Disability (Anneli Hermanoff / Kaarina Määttä / Satu Uusiautti)
  • 3. Encouraging Children with Socio-emotional Difficulties
  • Development of Emotional Coping among Elementary Education Students (Eeva-Liisa Peltokorpi / Kaarina Määttä / Satu Uusiautti)
  • How to Raise a Child with a Challenging Temperament? (Mirja Heikkala / Satu Uusiautti / Kaarina Määttä)
  • Toward the Pedagogy of Preventing Social Exclusion (Tanja Äärelä / Satu Uusiautti / Kaarina Määttä)
  • 4. Providing Opportunities to Students with Extreme Illnesses
  • Ex-anorectics’ Experiences of Finding their Appetite for Life (Marika Savukoski / Satu Uusiautti / Kaarina Määttä)
  • Going to School with Narcolepsy (Satu Karjalainen / Anna-Maria Nyrhilä / Kaarina Määttä / Satu Uusiautti)
  • 5. New Ways of Collaboration as the Strength of Special Education
  • Teachers’ Perceptions of the Possibilities of Inclusion (Suvi Lakkala / Satu Uusiautti / Kaarina Määttä)
  • Opportunities for Sustainable Education in the Special Education Classroom (Tomi Kankainen / Kaarina Määttä / Satu Uusiautti)
  • Strength-based Teaching as the Means to Approach the Most Talented Students (Mari Salmela / Satu Uusiautti / Kaarina Määttä)
  • 6. Conclusion
  • The Core of Special Education (Satu Uusiautti / Kaarina Määttä)
  • Sources

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List of Contributors

Mirja Heikkala, MA, Coordinator, Education and Development Services, University of Lapland

Anneli Hermanoff, PhD, special education teacher, Rantavitikka Elementary School

Seija Kangas, PhD, lecturer, Oulu Vocational College

Tomi Kankainen, MA, elementary school teacher, Koulunmäki School

Satu Karjalainen, MA, elementary school teacher, Rovaniemi

Suvi Lakkala, PhD, university lecturer in inclusive education

Kaarina Määttä, professor of educational psychology, vice-rector, University of Lapland

Anna-Maria Nyrhilä, MA, elementary school teacher, Kauhava City

Eeva-Liisa Peltokorpi, PhD, elementary school teacher, special education teacher, Maaniittu Elementary School

Mari Salmela, PhD, network contact point, ELO ry

Marika Savukoski, PhD, head of local education and culture department, City of Keuruu

Anna-Kaisa Sipilä, PhD, special education teacher, psychotherapist, Valteri Centre for Learning and Consulting, Tervaväylä

Satu Uusiautti, professor of education, University of Lapland

Tanja Äärelä, PhD, university lecturer in special education, University of Lapland ← 7 | 8 →

← 8 | 9 →


In today’s schools, the realization of special education has changed. Students with various special needs are located more and more often in the neighboring schools, in ordinary classrooms. The idea of inclusion has entered schooling.

More knowledge and skills of special education are needed because special education is no longer in the hands of special education teachers only—classroom teachers and their assistants have increasing responsibility over the teaching of children with special needs. There is a timely need for information on how to face and successfully pay attention to various learners.

New Methods of Special Education is an edited compilation that widely introduces research from the field conducted by experts on special education. The variety of themes included in the book covers various students with special needs and introduces solutions that have been tested in schools and with students in Finland. It discusses the usability of applications, challenges to re-think the abilities of students with special needs, and points out the important roles of people in these students’ learning environments. As editors, our purpose has been to present new ways of approaching special educational situations and practices.

The book covers research on students with intellectual disabilities and with autism, socio-emotional difficulties, and extreme illnesses such as narcolepsy and anorexia nervosa. In addition, a special group of extremely talented and gifted students and their opinions on best teaching practices are noted in this book. Furthermore, viewpoints on the support and realization of special education during the school paths of children with special needs are discussed from various viewpoints, including those of teachers and special needs assistants.

The book aims to bring out the voices of not only the students with special needs but also their parents, teachers, and other people supporting them. The authors of this book are all Finnish researchers and experts in the field, each providing their own special viewpoint on the theme in collaboration with the editors.

We hope that this research-based compilation will serve a variety of people working with questions of special education: practitioners, researchers, and teachers and students in the field of special education worldwide. In addition to providing practical viewpoints and findings, the book will serve as a handbook of special education research examples.

Finally, we want to highlight the perspectives of positive and caring education. The book describes the core of special education by contrasting it with the elements of caring education. Good teaching and successful study processes of ← 9 | 10 → students with special needs are secured by immediate and caring interaction, flexible and student-centered teaching and supervision, and multi-professional collaboration. At its best, New Methods of Special Education inspires new research and provides ideas for developing education in a direction where various learners get the attention and support they need and deserve.

At the University of Lapland in Rovaniemi, Finland, Sep 30, 2017
Satu Uusiautti & Kaarina Määttä

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1. Introduction

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Kaarina Määttä, Tanja Äärelä & Satu Uusiautti

Challenges of Special Education

Abstract: Inclusion has come to stay in our school system. It should guarantee equal study opportunities for all, prevent stigmatizing, and accept heterogeneous students. We discuss the relationship between special education and inclusion in the current education system and reflect on how to realize and research inclusive practices at school.


The basic education systems both in Finland and in many other European countries have been transformed to fulfill the idea of inclusive schooling as defined in the Salamanca Statement (UNESCO 1994). All various learners study primarily in their neighboring school, in other words in ordinary basic education schools, and all receive tailored support for their special needs in their schools. For special education schools, this means that they turn merely into resource and expert centers. This is a general trend of development in Europe. Finland has the same emphasis: segregating special education institutions means that they will become expert centers that promote inclusion (Ministry of Education and Culture, 2007).

The historical developmental phases of special education have followed the same kind of path in Finland as in numerous other European countries (Shepherd & West, 2016). In Finland, the idea of inclusion was preceded by the time of sensory disabilities in the end of 19th century, the time of special education schools and classes in the beginning of the 20th century, and the time of part-time special education since the 1940s (Jahnukainen, 2011; Kivirauma, Klemelä & Rinne, 2006).

In an inclusive school, every student’s education is individually designed and realized in the student’s neighboring school within the group of local peers. In Finland, inclusion is the official educational policy, and the goal is that one school should be suitable for all pupils (Takala, 2007). Thus, the educational trend has proceeded from segregated teaching toward inclusive schooling (Artiles & Kozleski, 2016; Lakkala, Uusiautti & Määttä, 2016; Takala, Pirttimaa & Törmänen, 2009). In practice, inclusion means teaching in a diverse classroom with pupils who have various individual needs (Forlin, Loreman, Sharma & Earle, 2009; Takala, 2007).

What does inclusion mean, and what kinds of challenges and opportunities does it bring to special education and all schooling? Will anything change eventually (Kivirauma et al., 2006; Popkewitz & Lindblad, 2000; Simola, Rinne & ← 13 | 14 → Kivirauma, 2002)? And what does Finland have to offer in order to develop special education (Hausstätter & Takala, 2008)? These questions will be discussed in this chapter based on earlier research in the field and our own research and experience that have focused on young prisoners’ school experiences (Äärelä, Määttä & Uusiautti, 2015, 2016a, 2016b; Äärelä, Uusiautti & Määttä, 2014a, 2014b), inclusion (Alila, Uusiautti & Määttä, 2016; Lakkala, Uusiautti & Määttä, 2016), caring teacherhood (Uusiautti & Määttä, 2016; Äärelä, Määttä & Uusiautti, 2016c), and challenges of the Finnish teacher education (Uusiautti & Määttä, 2013a, 2013b, 2013c, 2013d). This various research serves as the basis of our review that aims at outlining the challenges and opportunities of special education in the changed school reality of inclusive education.

How to Secure Students’ Equality?

Inclusion has been seen as an ideology promoting students’ equality (Waitoller & Artiles, 2013). In the Salamanca Statement (UNESCO, 1994), the school was defined as a place in which also those with special needs should study in general education classrooms instead of special education classrooms. The concept of inclusion was created to illustrate the ideological change. The earlier concept, which was sometimes used as a synonym for inclusion, integration, was tied with the idea of a graduated service system where students with special needs could use general services “to the fullest possible extent” (Kivirauma et al., 2006).

Inclusion requires a holistic change in school culture (Eisenman, Pleet, Wandry & McGinelys, 2010). The change concerns the work of special education and elementary school teachers. Similarly, children’s mutual relationships and ability to accept and respect others are crucial in the inclusive school (Gottfried, 2014). However, one core question is whether a single school can meet the various needs of each student.

If schools and teaching fail in their societal task, students will not integrate and will participate. From the societal perspective, growing children with their special features should bcome full members of the community. If the task of individualized teaching fails, education may set students in great danger of exclusion from the society. In these cases, students with learning difficulties have not received enough support for learning—perhaps difficulties with learning to read or write have not been noticed or students with hearing or visual impairments have not been sufficiently supported. The school has not succeeded in coping with unstable students or students with low social skills and behavioral problems. Students with intellectual disabilities have not received enough support and guidance in their everyday life at school. ← 14 | 15 →

If schools and teaching succeed in their task of basic education, students will receive all the necessary information, skills, and preparation to continue their studies to secondary school and move on with their lives. In these cases, the most important task of education has been successful: students have been socialized and integrated into the society.

Education has been noted to be socially inherited, which means that parents’ education levels predict their child’s education level (e.g., Smyth, 2010). Mother’s and father’s education levels have similar effects, yet the mother’s education is somewhat more influential (Coyl-Shepherd & Newland, 2013). Obviously, the higher the parents’ education level is, the smaller the chance is that the child would only perform basic or secondary education. However, research has also revealed that the current education system has increased social variation: the children of parents with high education can end up with low education levels while children of parents with just basic educational backgrounds can pursue higher education. In other words, parents’ education level directs their children’s education. But then again, many other factors influence students’ choices regarding vocations and education, too.

From the perspective of inclusive schools, the children’s socio-economic backgrounds pose a challenge for the school as parents select schools for their children (Kosunen, 2013). Collaboration with parents is demanding: they may set unrealistic expectations for the school and teachers about their child’s success at school or blame the school if the child is not performing well at school. Parents do not always participate in education in a way that actually benefits the children: More is not always better, remind Pomerantz, Moorman, and Litwack (2007).

Some researchers have mentioned that children who are doing well will do better and better all the time, whereas children who are not doing well will do even worse (Reich, 2007). If we consider the original ideas in basic education and inclusive education, the current direction is wrong. The initial purpose of equal education and inclusion has been to decrease differences that originate in children’s family backgrounds to decrease polarization (Reay & Lucey, 2000). However, various indicators show that the education society tends to be divided into the fortunate and unfortunate (Gottfried, 2014).

Is the School Providing the Opportunity to Participate or to be Left Outside?

According to research (Archambault, Janosz, Morizot & Pagani, 2009; Miech et al., 1999; Staff & Kreager, 2008), learning difficulties and for example challenges in writing and reading skills can be well noticed and met in basic schools. Those students who have behavioral problems are in the greatest danger of exclusion. ← 15 | 16 →

A significant challenge for teaching is the question of whether the school and teachers can direct their action so that students are actually able to participate rather than become excluded. This is a justifiable question because children’s and young people’s social problems and malaise are increasingly concerning and discussed in our society (Vislie, 2003; Youth Barometer 2016, 2017). According to Kauffman, Mostert, Trent and Pullen (2006), pedagogues should ask themselves at least the following questions: (1) Could this problem be due to an inappropriate curriculum, study program, or teaching strategy?; (2) What do I require or prevent, or what should I require or prevent?; (3) Why do certain kinds of behaviors bother me and what should I do about them?; (4) Should I intervene in extreme behaviors or in non-existing behaviors?; and (5) Will the reason for or a solution to a problem solve something else too (Kauffman et al., 2006; see also Äärelä, Määttä & Uusiautti, 2016c)?

The school alone does not cause or cannot cure schoolchildren’s malaise. Often, it is a question of a much wider dimension related to the process of exclusion as referred in the previous chapter about, for example, families’ socio-economic statuses. However, the school has a central role as it can either increase the malaise or even decrease it from time to time (Äärelä, Määttä & Uusiautti, 2015). Children spend a great deal of their days at school with adults who work there—often, the time is considerably more than what they spend with their parents. According to research, already one safe relationship with an adult can prevent a child from exclusion (Crooks, Scott, Ellis & Wolfe, 2011). Likewise, research says that the school can offer repairing experiences for children whose home environments have deficiencies or harmful factors (Goodman & Burton, 2010; Holland, 2008).

Is it the School or the Student Who Adjusts?

The teacher has to teach students, and there are no students alike. Everyone has their own special needs for support already without any special educational analysis. For example, students differ in their temperaments, and thus have different ways and rhythms of working and behaving (see e.g., McAdams & Olson, 2010).


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (September)
students with special needs inclusion caring education strength-based teaching learning difficulties
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2018, 278 p., 1 b/w ill., 7 b/w tab.

Biographical notes

Satu Uusiautti (Volume editor) Kaarina Määttä (Volume editor)

Satu Uusiautti is a Professor of Education at the University of Lapland, Finland. Kaarina Määttä is a Professor of Educational Psychology and Vice-Rector of the University of Lapland, Finland.


Title: New Methods of Special Education
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