All students want to feel like they belong and that they are valued in their school community. School is a centrally important place to young people — not only where they learn fundamental academic knowledge, but also where skills in making and keeping friends, relating to peers, and social justice principles are learnt and practiced. What happens when young people feel like they don’t belong?
This paper examines a series of key issues about belonging and connection for students with disability and demonstrates research that shows:
• Feeling a sense of belonging and connection makes a positive difference to school life
•There are a number of key elements to belonging and connection — friendship, peer acceptance, capability, being valued and supportive relationships with key adults
• When belonging and connection are threatened, there are several areas in which the impact is seen. The friendships of students are limited; they are lonely; the places they can go within the school are controlled; there are tensions in negotiating support relationships; students feel and are excluded; and kid’s strengths aren’t seen by other students or adults in their school communities
• Bullying is a particularly strong threat to a felt sense of belonging and connection