The participation experience of children with disabilities in Portuguese mainstream schools

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Introduction: This explorative study aimed to chart the participation experiences of children with disabilities enrolled in mainstream schools.

Method: The participants were 14 students with disabilities, with good communication skills, aged between 8 and 11 years and attending school in Portugal. The data were collected through open-ended interviews and analysed employing a psychological phenomenological method.

Findings: The findings suggest that participation at school took three forms: equal participation, special task participation and onlooker participation. Those three forms contrasted with situations of non-participation, in which the children felt completely excluded. Each form of participation and non-participation presented different performance characteristics and was influenced by the social environment.

Conclusion: The findings of this study provide insights that enhance the understanding of children's inclusion in mainstream schools, as well as the individual's experience of participation.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2010

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  • The British Journal of Occupational Therapy (BJOT) is the official journal of the College of Occupational Therapists. Its purpose is to publish articles relevant to theory, practice, research, education and management in occupational therapy internationally.

    BJOT publishes research articles, critical reviews, practice analyses, opinion pieces, editorials, letters to the editor, book reviews and an annual index. Please refer to the author's guide at

    Submissions can be made at

    The 2013 Impact Factor for The British Journal of Occupational Therapy is 0.897.

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