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The effect of a wheelchair sports presentation on modifying attitudes of junior high school students toward physically disabled persons Knudson, Gail Ann


The Contact Hypothesis (Amir, 1969) suggests that attitudes toward a minority group can be modified. However, attitudinal change depends upon the nature of the contact. The main purpose of this study was to examine the effect of the B.C. Wheelchair Sports Demonstration Team Presentation on attitudes of junior high school students toward physically disabled persons This was measured by the Attitudes Towards Disabled Persons Scale (ATDP) (Yuker et al., 1960) and the Modified Issues in Disability Scale (MIDS) (Makas, 1985). The treatment consisted of a one hour structured program that included contact with physically disabled persons and information about their disabilities. One hundred and thirty-one able-bodied students (ages 13-15) from four junior high schools in two British Columbia school districts participated in this study. Students from one school in each district attended the British Columbia Wheelchair Sports Demonstration Team Presentation. Students from the other school did not attend and were assigned to the control group. This research used a one-group pretest-posttest design with a posttest-only control group as a follow-up . four weeks after the treatment. Subjects in the experimental group completed the ATDP prior to and immediately after the treatment. As a result of the high correlation (r=.91) between the MIDS and ATDP with a prior sample of 15 year old students, both experimental and control groups completed only the MIDS four weeks after the treatment. All subjects completed the Social History Questionnaire (SHQ) (Makas, 1989) on each occasion. The SHQ gathered information on gender, birth date, place of residence and prior contact with physically disabled persons. A t-test for dependent samples comparing differences between pre- and posttest MIDS scores of the experimental group was not significant (p=.112 for a 2-tailed test). However, in the follow-up portion of the study, an analysis of variance of the ATDP found a significant difference between the experimental and control groups (p=.007). There were no significant interactions of gender, age or previous contact with treatment. The findings of this study show that able-bodied students' attitudes can be positively modified with an information plus contact program. Although the modification was not immediate, a delayed effect occurred. Three focuses of further investigations might include the following: a need for attitude modification research related to disabled persons particularly in the junior high school age group; continued reliability and validity testing of the MIDS, and a refinement of the SHQ to more accurately assess prior contact with disabled persons.

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