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Understanding the diversity of experiences in students who have been identified as having a disability (SPED) could help teachers and administrators better understand the experiences of their student body and help them tailor interventions that best fit the needs of the students to increase student academic and social outcomes. A dual-factor perspective to student mental health posits that both students thrive in the when there is a presence of social-emotional strengths, as well as the absence of distress (Suldo & Shaffer, 2008). The focus on both the distress and strengths of students mental health provides a unique perspective on studying the overall well being of students which traditionally would focus on a deficit model. Understanding the experiences of al students , those who have been identified with a disability and is important.
Recent work has focused on the social-emotional well being of students with learning disabilities using more traditional, variable-centered approaches such as factor (Carnazzo, Dowdy, Furlong, and Quirk, 2018) and found that students with a learning disability had lower social-emotional strengths. However, what has yet to be done is a person-centered approach to understanding students with disabilities social-emotional strengths. Further, little is known about the differences in social-emotional patterns that may emerge between students who have been identified as having a learning disability and those who are not.
Using a latent profile analysis (LPA; Masyn 2013) approach, this paper uses data from high school students (N =1739, ~10% SPED students) from a school district in northern CA to explore if the emergent latent classes of social-emotional health experiences for students identified as SPED were the same as non-SPED. Independent LPAs were was conducted using four continuous areas of the Social Emotional Health Survey for Secondary students (SEHS-S; Furlong, You, Renshaw, Smith, & O’Malley, 2013), a widely used measure of student social-emotional. By running the analysis independently for SPED and non-SPED classes, we allow the emergent classes to be formed independently for each population of students, making no assumptions about the equivalence of the solution for the two samples. Preliminary results indicated differences in the emergent latent classes, indicating that SPED and non-SPED students social-emotional strengths should not be assumed to be the same. Implications of these results in the context of or use by school practitioners and researchers will be discussed. Further, the utility of this flexible modeling approach will be highlighted, demonstrating the usefulness of this approach to the disability research community.