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1.  Should Schools Expect Poor Physical and Mental Health, Social Adjustment, and Participation Outcomes in Students with Disability? 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(5):e0126630.
The literature on whether students with disabilities have worse physical and mental health, social adjustment, and participation outcomes when compared to their peers without disabilities is largely inconclusive. While the majority of case control studies showed significantly worse outcomes for students with disabilities; the proportion of variance accounted for is rarely reported. The current study used a population cross-sectional approach to determine the classification ability of commonly used screening and outcome measures in determining the disability status. Furthermore, the study aimed to identify the variables, if any, that best predicted the presence of disability. Results of univariate discriminant function analyses suggest that across the board, the sensitivity of the outcome/screening tools to correctly identify students with a disability was 31.9% higher than the related Positive Predictive Value (PPV). The lower PPV and Positive Likelihood Ratio (LR+) scores suggest that the included measures had limited discriminant ability (17.6% to 40.3%) in accurately identifying students at-risk for further assessment. Results of multivariate analyses suggested that poor health and hyperactivity increased the odds of having a disability about two to three times, while poor close perceived friendship and academic competences predicted disability with roughly the same magnitude. Overall, the findings of the current study highlight the need for researchers and clinicians to familiarize themselves with the psychometric properties of measures, and be cautious in matching the function of the measures with their research and clinical needs.
PMCID: PMC4429077  PMID: 25965845
2.  The Personal and Contextual Contributors to School Belongingness among Primary School Students 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(4):e0123353.
School belongingness has gained currency among educators and school health professionals as an important determinant of adolescent health. The current cross-sectional study presents the 15 most significant personal and contextual factors that collectively explain 66.4% (two-thirds) of the variability in 12-year old students’ perceptions of belongingness in primary school. The study is part of a larger longitudinal study investigating the factors associated with student adjustment in the transition from primary to secondary school. The study found that girls and students with disabilities had higher school belongingness scores than boys, and their typically developing counterparts respectively; and explained 2.5% of the variability in school belongingness. The majority (47.1% out of 66.4%) of the variability in school belongingness was explained by student personal factors, such as social acceptance, physical appearance competence, coping skills, and social affiliation motivation; followed by parental expectations (3% out of 66.4%), and school-based factors (13.9% out of 66.4%) such as, classroom involvement, task-goal structure, autonomy provision, cultural pluralism, and absence of bullying. Each of the identified contributors of primary school belongingness can be shaped through interventions, system changes, or policy reforms.
PMCID: PMC4398482  PMID: 25876074
3.  The Cost of Autism Spectrum Disorders 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e106552.
A diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorders is usually associated with substantial lifetime costs to an individual, their family and the community. However, there remains an elusive factor in any cost-benefit analysis of ASD diagnosis, namely the cost of not obtaining a diagnosis. Given the infeasibility of estimating the costs of a population that, by its nature, is inaccessible, the current study compares expenses between families whose children received a formal ASD diagnosis immediately upon suspecting developmental atypicality and seeking advice, with families that experienced a delay between first suspicion and formal diagnosis.
A register based questionnaire study covering all families with a child with ASD in Western Australia.
Families with one or more children diagnosed with an ASD, totalling 521 children diagnosed with an ASD; 317 records were able to be included in the final analysis.
The median family cost of ASD was estimated to be AUD $34,900 per annum with almost 90% of the sum ($29,200) due to loss of income from employment. For each additional symptom reported, approximately $1,400 cost for the family per annum was added. While there was little direct influence on costs associated with a delay in the diagnosis, the delay was associated with a modest increase in the number of ASD symptoms, indirectly impacting the cost of ASD.
A delay in diagnosis was associated with an indirect increased financial burden to families. Early and appropriate access to early intervention is known to improve a child's long-term outcomes and reduce lifetime costs to the individual, family and society. Consequently, a per symptom dollar value may assist in allocation of individualised funding amounts for interventions rather than a nominal amount allocated to all children below a certain age, regardless of symptom presentation, as is the case in Western Australia.
PMCID: PMC4156354  PMID: 25191755
4.  School Belongingness and Mental Health Functioning across the Primary-Secondary Transition in a Mainstream Sample: Multi-Group Cross-Lagged Analyses 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e99576.
The relationship between school belongingness and mental health functioning before and after the primary-secondary school transition has not been previously investigated in students with and without disabilities. This study used a prospective longitudinal design to test the bi-directional relationships between these constructs, by surveying 266 students with and without disabilities and their parents, 6-months before and after the transition to secondary school. Cross-lagged multi-group analyses found student perception of belongingness in the final year of primary school to contribute to change in their mental health functioning a year later. The beneficial longitudinal effects of school belongingness on subsequent mental health functioning were evident in all student subgroups; even after accounting for prior mental health scores and the cross-time stability in mental health functioning and school belongingness scores. Findings of the current study substantiate the role of school contextual influences on early adolescent mental health functioning. They highlight the importance for primary and secondary schools to assess students’ school belongingness and mental health functioning and transfer these records as part of the transition process, so that appropriate scaffolds are in place to support those in need. Longer term longitudinal studies are needed to increase the understanding of the temporal sequencing between school belongingness and mental health functioning of all mainstream students.
PMCID: PMC4072543  PMID: 24967580
5.  The Impact of Personal Background and School Contextual Factors on Academic Competence and Mental Health Functioning across the Primary-Secondary School Transition 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e89874.
Students negotiate the transition to secondary school in different ways. While some thrive on the opportunity, others are challenged. A prospective longitudinal design was used to determine the contribution of personal background and school contextual factors on academic competence (AC) and mental health functioning (MHF) of 266 students, 6-months before and after the transition to secondary school. Data from 197 typically developing students and 69 students with a disability were analysed using hierarchical linear regression modelling. Both in primary and secondary school, students with a disability and from socially disadvantaged backgrounds gained poorer scores for AC and MHF than their typically developing and more affluent counterparts. Students who attended independent and mid-range sized primary schools had the highest concurrent AC. Those from independent primary schools had the lowest MHF. The primary school organisational model significantly influenced post-transition AC scores; with students from Kindergarten - Year 7 schools reporting the lowest scores, while those from the Kindergarten - Year 12 structure without middle school having the highest scores. Attending a school which used the Kindergarten - Year 12 with middle school structure was associated with a reduction in AC scores across the transition. Personal background factors accounted for the majority of the variability in post-transition AC and MHF. The contribution of school contextual factors was relatively minor. There is a potential opportunity for schools to provide support to disadvantaged students before the transition to secondary school, as they continue to be at a disadvantage after the transition.
PMCID: PMC3946588  PMID: 24608366
6.  Looking through the Same Eyes? Do Teachers' Participation Ratings Match with Ratings of Students with Autism Spectrum Conditions in Mainstream Schools? 
Autism Research and Treatment  2012;2012:656981.
To create an inclusive classroom and act accordingly, teachers' understanding of the experiences of participation of students with autism spectrum conditions (ASCs) is crucial. This understanding may depend on the teachers' professional experiences, support and personal interests. The aim of the present questionnaire study was to investigate how well the teachers' ratings of their students with ASCs' perception of participation matched with the students' own ratings. Furthermore, possible correlations between the accuracy of teachers' ratings and the teachers' self-reported professional experience, support (including support-staff), and personal interest were investigated. Teachers' ratings were also used to examine how their understandings correlated with classroom actions. The agreements between teachers' and students' ratings were moderate to high, and the ability to attune to the students' perception of participation was not affected by the presence of a support-staff. The teachers' personal interest in teaching students with ASC correlated with their accuracy, suggesting that this is a factor to consider when planning for successful placements in mainstream schools. Teachers' understandings of the students with ASCs' perception of being bullied or unpopular correlated with implementation of activities to improve the attitudes of classmates, but not with actions to enhance social relations for the students with ASC.
PMCID: PMC3420386  PMID: 22934176

Results 1-6 (6)