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Friendships with Peers with Severe Disabilities: American and Iranian Secondary Students’ Ideas about Being a Friend

By: Mohsen Shokoohi-Yekta and Jo M. Hendrickson

Abstract: We used the Student Friendship Perception Survey (SFPS) (Hamre-Nietupski, Hendrickson, Nietupski, & Shokoohi-Yekta, 1993; Hendrickson, Shokoohi-Yekta, Hamre-Nietupski, & Gable, 1996) to examine the opinions of 656 American and 289 Iranian high school students (13-18 years old, M=15.0 and 15.5, respectively) in inclusive settings regarding friendships with peers with severe disabilities. Student opinions related to (a) general friendship issues; (b) school settings/placement; (c) who should facilitate friendships; (d) teacher and school responsibilities; (e) parent involvement; (f) willingness to invest in friendships; (g) reasons for friendships; and (h) difficulties being friends were analyzed. Iranian students favor more inclusive school environments and oversight by school personnel. Both American and Iranian students feel responsible for initiating friendship acts, and both view knowing how to interact as a main challenge. Cultural factors and implications for practice and research are discussed.
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