Äikäs & Pesonen (2022): Demanding special support in Finnish basic education: Using educational design research to examine the concept
I: NMI-bulletin, 2/2022.
Original title: Perusopetuksen vaativa erityinen tuki: käsitteen tarkastelua kasvatustieteellisen design-tutkimuksen avulla.
A. Äikäs & Henri Pesonen.
The concept of ”demanding special support” has created various discussions in the field of basic education in Finland. The concept dates back to 2011 when the three tiered support model (general, intensified and special support) was implemented in Finland. There were concerns of students with more demanding needs (e.g. severe and profound disabilities, severe mental health issues) and their inclusive schooling. The concept was meant to describe students who have demanding special support needs regardless their tier of support, but instead it has been perceived as a fourth support tier or part of special support tier. The aim of this was to examine the concept of demanding special support and what it is about in basic education in Finland. The concept of demanding special support was introduced in demanding special support project (2012–2015), and it has used to describe pupils (with any at the level of support) when their support needs are demanding and intensive. Now, almost ten years after the introduction of the concept, it has received several different meanings and forsm of support in practice. In our study, we used the educational design research method to examine the concept and its meaning. The data consisted of multi-professional actors’ written descriptions of the demanding special support (n = 93) requiring writing and from two focus group discussions (n = 22 and n = 23). The data were analysed in cycles and qualitatively, as is typical for educational design research. As a result of the design process, a concept and a figure were created: “Basic education pupil in the centre of interprofessional support.” The concept of demanding interprofessional support describes the need for extensive and intensive support in a more comprehensive way than the concept of demanding special support. The need for support depends above all on the individual needs. The most important thing in the support is the operating culture of high-quality basic education that supports all students, in which the values of the school's adults and attitudes are also in favour for supporting the diversity of children and young people. Essentials dimensions of demanding multidisciplinary support also include, health care services, social work, for example.