School success and participation for students with cerebral palsy: a qualitative study exploring multiple perspectives

Helen M. Bourke-Taylor, Claire Cotter, Aislinn Lalor, Lindy Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: This qualitative study investigated perceived successful school experiences for students with cerebral palsy in Australia. Participation and appropriate support in school are complex concepts, although few studies have investigated all stakeholders’ perspectives. Methods: Phenomenology informed the study that centered on the concept of a successful school experience. In-depth interviews occurred with students (n = 7), parents (n = 11), teachers (n = 10), school principals (n = 9) and allied health practitioners (n = 10) to gain the perspective from multiple vantage points. Specific research questions, interview guides and demographic questionnaires were configured for each group. Interviews were analyzed thematically within and between groups. Results: Three key themes emerged: Collaborative partnerships between families, schools and outside organizations; School culture and attitude is key; and, allied health practitioners are part of home and school teams. Conclusions: Student and school success was impacted substantially by the capacity of adults in the student’s life to collaborate – family, school professionals and allied health practitioners. An inclusive school culture was crucial to students with cerebral palsy. All parties needed to prioritize promotion of an open and positive school culture built around problem-solving inclusive practices. Involved people, such as allied health practitioners, bring knowledge and skills that are not otherwise readily available in school environments. Implications for rehabilitationStudents with cerebral palsy have high needs at school and allied health practitioners have a role advocating for, educating and providing support to students within the school.Teachers of students with cerebral palsy need education, training and support from allied health practitioners.The need for allied health and rehabilitation services continues for children and youth with cerebral palsy outside of school and across the schooling years.School professionals; allied health practitioners; families and students can work together to improve the student experience

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2163-2171
Number of pages9
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • allied health
  • Cerebral palsy
  • education
  • inclusion

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