The efficacy of systematic desensitization as a strategy to affect attitude change in teachers toward severely handicapped children



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A free, appropriate public education for all handicapped children was mandated by The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (P.L. 94-142) in 1975. As a result, public schools must provide educational services to all handicapped children, regardless of the severity or multiplicity of impairment. More than any school population, severely and profoundly handicapped children need well-planned and designed programs developed by positive, caring, and rigorously trained teachers. A wide deviation from what has been the mainstay in teacher training is required due to the functioning level of these children. If such a comprehensive plan of special education is to succeed considerable attention must be given to teacher attitudes. The primary purpose of this study was to develop and evaluate the use of systematic desensitization as an attitude change strategy. In particular, an attempt was made to improve the attitudes of teachers toward severely handicapped children. A secondary purpose was to assess the effect of the treatment in reducing specific anxiety in situations with severely handicapped persons. A third purpose involved an assessment of the relationship between anxiety and attitude. The rationale for the study was based upon evidence from attitude and learning theory that level of anxiety is related to attitude formation and change. [...]