Impact of childhood screening for disability/impairment on education and learning

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Helpdesk Query:
  • What is the impact of childhood screening for disability/impairment on education and learning?
  • What needs to be in place to ensure screening interventions are effective?

Evidence indicates that disability is a leading cause of marginalisation in education, with enrolment, primary school completion and literacy rates consistently falling below those of non-disabled children, as children with disabilities are ‘less likely to attend or remain in school, have lower transition and completion rates and do not achieve the levels of results of their peers’ (Wapling, 2016, p. 3). A number of screening tools have been used in low and middle income countries, including in schools, to identify children at risk of disability and to direct them to appropriate help.

However, as many children with disabilities are out of school, screening which takes place solely in schools may miss them. New and innovative screening technologies and tools are being developed, with the aim of overcoming some of the challenges faced in low and middle income countries. However, there appears to be very little evidence which looks at the impact of screening on education and learning outcomes of children with disabilities. A systematic review of education for children with disabilities in low and middle income finds that there is relatively little formal research which assesses strategies for ensuring quality education for children with disabilities, including in relation to impairment identification (Wapling, 2016, p. 3).

Screening involves the use of diagnostic tools/equipment to test for different impairments, to identify those at risk and in need of more in-depth assessment, so that appropriate help can be offered (Kuyini et al, 2015, p. 19). Teachers can provide first line screening for some impairments, although this requires other systems to be in place to take over subsequent follow up processes, including links with education and social development services (Bundy, 2011, p.119, 125).

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