Over the past few decades, Quebec colleges have seen an exponential increase in the number of students with disabilities (étudiants en situation de handicap or ESH in French).
The provision of accommodations and support by adapted services and the gradual introduction of so-called inclusive pedagogical practices in the classroom have been the preferred means for colleges to support these students and provide them with an environment conducive to academic success and perseverance.
To date, we still have little knowledge of the effects of these adapted services on the adaptation and success of students with disabilities and the links that these services maintain with inclusive pedagogical practices in the classroom, much less the mechanisms that could explain their effectiveness.
The ESH-Transition project was designed to answer these questions. Using a mixed-methods approach, including longitudinal follow-up of students with and without disabilities over two years and interviews and focus groups with students with disabilities and adapted services counselors, we showed that female students with disabilities supported by adapted services improved their social adjustment and academic perseverance in college.
On the other hand, adapted services were found to have no impact on the adaptation, success and perseverance of male students with disabilities and students with disabilities and mental health disorders, and were even associated with an increase in dropout among male students. An examination of the mechanisms at play suggests that adapted services are modulated by factors specific to the student and by contextual and teaching-related factors unrelated to the services themselves. Our results suggest that, without work to value students with disabilities, without promoting and teaching social conceptions of disability, without peer and teacher interventions and training, without inclusive pedagogical practices, and without establishing an institutional culture that prioritizes inclusion, equity, diversity and social acceptance, the impact of adapted services in colleges will remain very limited.
Simon Larose, Université Laval