Special Education Staff: Is there an Association Between The Personal Experiences of School Staff and Attitudes Towards Students with Emotional Disturbance?

Previous studies have shown that positive interactions with students have strong influences on student social emotional development and achievement. Yet, there appears to be a need for more information about what differentiates the beliefs of staff towards students and the possible connections to their personal experiences outside of the work environment. To address this gap in the research, this study aims to identify if there is an association between special education staff’s personal experiences and attitudes towards students with emotional disturbance. Data was collected using qualitative and quantitative sources and have explored demographic areas such as age, and gender. Using a mixed methods design, attitudes and experiences of 21 staff members at one Ventura County School were examined. The focus school is considered a restrictive environment because it is a separate setting school for students diagnosed with emotional disturbance. Findings suggested that teachers who felt more in control were more likely to score higher on the ADTP-O, indicating a more positive attitude towards persons with disabilities. These results highlight the need for professional development within districts specifically relating to improving teacher efficacy.