Research projects from the M. Ed In Special Education program.

Recent Submissions

  • The Bias, Stigma, and Social Construct of a Disability Label: A Meta-Synthesis

    Wallace, Karen (University of Alaska Southeast, 2014)
    The current climate in education is moving toward more inclusive education which means more and more students with a special education need are attending class in the general education classroom with a general education teacher. Sadly, many general education teachers in these inclusive classrooms are not prepared to have students with special education needs in their classroom because they do not have the knowledge or experience teaching these exceptional students. Research suggests teachers hold a bias toward students with a special education label and have preconceived notions of how these students will perform in their classroom. It is unfortunate for these students because at this time is when they need help the most. School is not only about learning what a person needs to know, but also when children learn about themselves and their peers. Research suggests that students given special education labels tend to have more difficulty due to the label they are given. This presumption of a label sets students up to interacting with teachers based on the label. This meta-synthesis of the literature on labels, bias, stigmatization, and the social construct of the disability label investigates how students with special needs, and the people around them, respond to the special needs label.
  • Autism: An Evolutionary Etiology: A Meta-Synthesis

    Titus, Cristina Bruketta (University of Alaska Southeast, 2014)
    This meta-synthesis attempts a detailed look at how Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) evolved from Kanner’s initial identification in 1943 to today’s current understanding. Emphasis will be placed on characteristic change, prevalence increase, causality, and evolution of treatments, techniques, and methods. Equal weight will also be placed on what the best overall treatments, techniques, and methods should be used with an individual with autism.
  • Building Resiliency: A Meta-Synthesis

    Stalder, Rebecca (University of Alaska Southeast, 2017)
    This meta-synthesis of the literature on children who experience trauma, and what we can do in the school setting to support children and teach them to build and shore up their resiliency factors. It takes a closer look at what is working, what educators can do to support children, and assist their families overcome the impact of trauma in their lives.
  • Writing Difficulties of Students with Learning Disability: A Meta-Synthesis

    York, Kimberly (University of Alaska Southeast, 2013)
    This meta-synthesis of the literature of special education students with handwriting difficulties analyzed factors that affect handwriting. A number of students with learning disabilities have handwriting difficulties. Legible handwriting continues to be an important skill for children to develop in elementary school and difficulty with this area can affect any child’s proficiency at school work. Many factors affect handwriting proficiency. Many areas of the brain are accessed when handwriting activities take place. With purposeful and sequential handwriting instruction including occupational therapy as well as evidence-based practices was the key areas that helped students improve their handwriting skills in addition to on-task behavior. This meta-synthesis of the literature on special education students with handwriting difficulties investigates the challenges of handwriting.
  • People with Disabilities and the Justice System: A Meta-Synthesis

    West, Erica C. (University of Alaska Southeast, 2016)
    Individuals with disabilities are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. This meta-synthesis explores the experiences of juveniles and adults with disabilities in the criminal justice system. Topics discussed include rates and characteristics of offenders with disabilities in the criminal justice system, experiences of offenders with disabilities within the justice system, recidivism risk factors for offenders with disabilities, and recommendations and needed changes for the criminal justice system.
  • Response to Intervention and Students with Emotional and/or Behavior Disorder: A Meta-Synthesis

    Price, Vicki R. (University of Alaska Southeast, 2014)
    The reauthorization of IDEA in 2006 mandated RTI programs would be implemented for students with academic and behavioral problems. The multi-tiered approach uses assessments, data collection, and observation to develop and employ appropriate supports and interventions. Students with EBD benefit from RTI data collected using PBIS. Professional development is essential for the success of PBIS. The data collected from RTI using PBIS helps IEP teams who provide support to students with EBD, to develop goals and objectives by designing instructional strategies to help students develop pro-social behaviors. This meta-synthesis of the literature of RTI/PBIS and students with EBD reviews the ways data collected using these interventions are used for professional development and instructional strategies
  • Generational Silence: Impact on the Over-Identification of Alaskan Native Students with Learning Disabilities: A Meta-Synthesis

    Van Flein, Barbara (University of Alaska Southeast, 2017)
    This meta-synthesis investigates the research and literature on the connections between historical trauma and the over-identification of Alaska Native students receiving special education services under the specific learning disability category. Historical trauma is defined. Intergenerational transmission is explained. The silence surrounding trauma and the loss of language fluency is explored and contextualized as a problematic factor in the disproportionate number of Alaska Native students being labeled as having a learning disability. The implications of misidentifying students, as well the life-long impact of receiving a disability label are discussed. Suggestions are reviewed with a focus on the ongoing development and practice of a special education teacher through the lenses of multiculturalism, critical theory and postmodernist thought. Not addressed in this meta-synthesis are issues of identity as they relate to and connect with historical trauma, colonialism and language.
  • The School-to-Prison Pipeline: How Education Has Failed Our Most Vulnerable Students: A Meta-Synthesis

    Vandivier, Andrew (University of Alaska Southeast, 2018)
    Beginning in the 1980’s, America began a ‘war on crime’, taking a tougher stance with longer sentencing on minor crimes. During this same time, and acting in concert, federal educational legislation began the policy of Zero Tolerance within schools. This meant that disciplinary issues, previously handled within schools, were now being addressed as criminal charges. This increased harshness and severity in punishment for school aged youth created a school-to-prison pipeline in which tens of thousands of students became incarcerated in juvenile and adult correctional facilities. The unintended consequence of creating safer school environments was that a disproportionate number of economically disadvantaged, minority, and youth with emotional disturbances were excluded from their learning environments and locked away in correctional institutions. Over the past four decades increased awareness about this disproportionality, along with a better understanding of mental health issues, has caused an upward trend in alternative educational strategies for our most at-risk and vulnerable student populations. Many of these alternative school settings still lack appropriate behavioral management interventions, social services, and mental health clinicians necessary to deal with root cause issues, but we are gradually trending back away from exclusionary, restrictive, and punitive punishments.
  • Response to Intervention Effective Practices: A Meta-Synthesis

    Clement, Tracy (University of Alaska Southeast, 2014)
    The purpose of this meta-synthesis is to assess the effectiveness of the Response to Intervention (RtI) framework. This paper reviewed research articles and other literature that explored effective practices within the RtI program, in an effort to properly implement interventions, and expedite the identification of a learning disability. After reviewing the research it was concluded that the RtI process, if implemented correctly could benefit students who are at risk academically and behaviorally. The research indicates that there are many components to RtI, including fidelity of instruction, proven curriculum, effective leadership, and regular progress monitoring, training and professional development. All of these factors are key to the efficiency of the RtI program. Some other components identified for the consideration of an effective RtI program was teacher collaboration, teacher self-efficacy and teacher perceptions; the inclusion of the family were also noted as important.
  • Social Stories™ for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Meta Synthesis

    Walton, Carolyn (University of Alaska Southeast, 2015)
    Throughout the last decade, the popularity of Social Stories™ by Carol Gray (or if deviated from Gray’s story prescriptions, social stories) to help decrease challenging behaviors and to increase positive social skills has risen. This strategy has been used primarily for individuals under the umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Despite the widespread approval by teachers, many limitations affect the validity of the Social Story™ or social story intervention and what skills people (i.e. receptive and expressive language, reading skills, cognitive abilities) need in order for this approach to be successful. Further research is needed in order to solidify the findings from several research studies. This meta-synthesis of the literature on Social Stories™ and/ social stories examines the effectiveness of this type of intervention for individuals on the Autism Spectrum.
  • FASD

    Sampley, Tina (University of Alaska Southeast, 2017)
    Regardless of our current knowledge base on the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy, the mistake continues to be made with the result being children born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. As these children move through their public education, it is often the case that their challenges are not met and they do not receive adequate help to overcome their difficulties with academics and social skills. When these students begin to transition into their adult lives, secondary conditions often arise from our failure as a support network to intervene on their behalf earlier on. This meta-synthesis of the literature on individuals with FASD investigates the current realities of the difficulties surrounding prenatal alcohol consumption as it relates to children, their families and communities.
  • Chess Instruction in the Mathematics Classroom: Implications for Critical-Thinking and Academic Skills: A Meta-Synthesis

    Gates, Russel L. (University of Alaska Southeast, 2015)
    Chess instruction during the school day or in a club format has been shown to increase achievement in mathematics, science, and reading comprehension. Students of all achievement levels experience positive growth in achievement within a relatively short period of time. Critical thinking skills, perseverance, and motivation to learn are also increased with the implementation of chess instruction. This meta-analysis of the literature on chess instruction and critical thinking skills investigates the increasing mathematics, science, and reading comprehension for students, particularly those who experience learning disabilities.
  • Working with Individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: A Meta-Synthesis

    Rehmer, Shelby (University of Alaska Southeast, 2014)
    This meta-synthesis of the literature on working with individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) examines the characteristics of individuals with FASD and the need for supports and services for these individuals in the classroom. There are behavior characteristics unique to FASD and these behaviors coupled with sensory processing deficits lead to distinctive challenges for individuals with FASD. Early identification, supports and services are critical to address challenges for individuals with FASD in the classroom, yet are often unavailable or unidentified.
  • Universal Design for Learning as a Method for an Inclusive Classroom: A Meta-Synthesis

    Ross, Carrie (University of Alaska Southeast, 2018)
    The movement for students with special education needs to have access to the general education curriculum, to be educated with nondisabled peers, and to learn in the least restrictive environment has been ongoing and continues to be an issue in education today. Although past and current education laws support and encourage the inclusion of students with special education needs, many states and school districts still struggle to move to inclusion models, reform the school system, and provide appropriate support and training to teachers on best practices for teaching in an inclusive setting. This meta-synthesis looks at one possible model as an effective method for implementing inclusion. The model being considered and analyzed is known as Universal Design for Learning (UDL).
  • Limited Evidence Based Practices in Special Education: What’s a Teacher to Do?: A Meta-Synthesis

    Capp, Robyn (University of Alaska Southeast, 2016)
    Since the enactment of No Child Left Behind, there has been a push for scientifically based methodologies in education. While the same holds true for special education, the progress is notably slower than in the general education field. Research in regards to Evidence Based Practices (EBPs) in special education is extremely limited. Furthermore, the individualization of special education and the variation in which each individual presents their disability require that educators not use one approach to meet the needs of all students. Given the limited availability, educators must familiarize themselves with the characteristics of EBPs to make informed instructional decisions. EBPs must be implemented with fidelity. Furthermore, they must monitor student progress and be responsive to each individual’s needs. It is clear that education is in the midst of a scientific based reform. The availability of research is limited, and additional research will need to be conducted in the future.
  • The Importance of Play and Developing Executive Functions in Early Childhood Education: A Meta-Synthesis

    Riesenberger, Jesse (University of Alaska Southeast, 2015)
    This meta-synthesis reviews literature on the development of executive functions in early childhood education. This paper focuses on the use of play in the early childhood classroom and the research supporting the use of play as a teaching tool. The author included studies that addressed both typically developing children and children with developmental delays. Papers reviewed had a focus on ages 3-5 with the exception of longitudinal studies which included older participants. The author includes her professional view of this subject and how the literature included in this paper will be used to support her early childhood program.
  • Teachers’ Perceptions of Inclusive Practices for Students with Emotional/Behavioral Disorders: A Meta-Synthesis

    Prewitt, Taylor (University of Alaska Southeast, 2019)
    The term inclusion has been tossed around the educational world for several decades now. In 1975 when the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, mandated that all children with special needs should be educated in their least restrictive environment (LRE) with their general educated peers, schools began to create special schools and self-contained classrooms for students with disabilities. In the 1980’s there was a movement to create a more inclusive and unified model of special education. Separate education was no longer equal and with the Regular Education Initiative’s (REI) attempt to correct the limitations of IDEA by creating one system of general education in which students with disabilities were to be supported within general education classrooms, the push for inclusion began. One major argument against full inclusion came from those who worked with students with emotional and/or behavioral disorders
  • Brain Based Disorders Related To White Matter Integrity

    Pine, Tom (University of Alaska Southeast, 2013)
    Although students with reading and math deficits seem to be on the rise, and referrals for special education continue to grow, research in neuroimaging over the last 10 to 15 years has identified root causes to most of these problems and researchers are beginning to develop interventions to greatly reduce the negative results of these disorders. Structural integrity of the brain’s white matter is in many ways connected to most difficulties in learning, and brain based disorders. Researchers are developing computer software designed to allow students to practice skills at home. In doing this, students will induce activation of specific region of the brain intended to strengthen white matter integrity and lessen the negative effects of many brain based disorders. These interventions have already been proven effective for brain damage from cancer and cancer treatments, TBI, attention deficits, autism, dyslexia and other reading deficits, and math related disorders.
  • Disproportionality in Special Education: What Does the Future Hold?

    Perez, Liana (University of Alaska Southeast, 2019)
    This meta-synthesis of the literature on disproportionality of minorities in special education examines the profound effects that inappropriately qualifying and placing culturally and linguistically diverse students into special education programs has on our nation. With the most current data showing the continuous increase of minorities in the US school systems, it is crucial that we develop methods and strategies that will help decrease the disproportionate representation of culturally and linguistically diverse students in our special education programs. It is pertinent that educators and administrators examine their own biases, beliefs, practices and policies to ensure social justice, respect and cultural responsiveness are being implemented in each and every classroom and school
  • Working With Students with FASD and Their Families: A Meta-Synthesis

    Palmer, Nichole (University of Alaska Southeast, 2013)
    Although the definition of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder has changed over the years, the amount of Alaska Native children born with prenatal exposure to alcohol remains on the rise. Students diagnosed and undiagnosed remain in classrooms all over Alaska. Teachers struggle to understand and help meet these student’s needs to help them become successful. Connecting and bridging the gap between schools and home remains a challenge. This meta-synthesis investigates how teachers can best help students learn and effective ways to work with families of students with FASD effectively to make the student successful in school and in life.

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