Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Social Work, University of Mississippi

Misa Kayama, PhD, MSW is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at the University of Mississippi. She received her PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and worked as a Postdoctoral Associate at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Her research focuses on cultural understandings of disability and stigmatization in the U.S. and Asian countries, including Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and India, through qualitative, ethnographic approaches and policy analyses. She is a co-author of two books, Disability, Culture and Development: A case study of Japanese children at school (Oxford University Press, 2014), and Disability, stigmatization, and children’s developing selves: Insights from educators in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the U.S. (Oxford University Press, in press). Her current research includes the examination of children’s and their parents’ perspectives of disability and special education services in Japan and the U.S.

Award Information

Abe Fellowship 2018
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Assistant Professor, Social Work, University of Mississippi
Understanding the experiences of elementary school-aged U.S. and Japanese children with disabilities to inform policy: Stigmatization and school functioning

The appropriate societal response to disability is a global policy debate directly affecting the lives of about 15% of the world's population, including segregation from public education. The proposed study addresses the issue of inclusive education. Despite contemporary international initiatives, including the Salamanca Statement and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the extent and ways governments address inclusive education vary widely. This variation is based, in part, on cultural differences in the ways in which the value of educational support is weighted against the risk of stigmatization, i.e., dilemma of difference. Yet the voices of children with disabilities and associated stigmatization have been largely absent from policy debates. The aim of the proposed research is to strengthen inclusive education policies through greater understanding of the experiences of children, and analyses of policies addressing cultural variations in this "dilemma of difference". The U.S. and Japan that have developed distinct special education policies, reflecting varying socio-culturally and historically based responses to disability, are important cases for examining variations in how inclusive education policies are implemented while minimizing stigmatization associated with special education. In the U.S., where independence and individual rights of children are valued relative to Japan, children with disabilities have been entitled to receive special education since 1975, after the passage of the federal special education law, currently the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. These services allow children to access appropriate education, provide them with equal opportunities, and reduce the experience of stigmatization. Japanese children, in contrast, are socialized from childhood to be exquisitely sensitive to interpersonal differences, including disabilities, that set them apart from their peer groups. Further, inclusive education is relatively new in Japan. Until 2007, special education services were typically provided in segregated settings, such as special education classrooms/schools, which reinforced stigmatization associated with special education. These socialization and educational practices/policies pose extra challenges to Japanese children with disabilities receiving special education services. Guided by concepts from developmental cultural psychology, this study examines U.S. and Japanese children's experiences of inclusive education in elementary school years during which stigmatization by peers, such as teasing and bullying, become apparent. Approximately 20 U.S. and 20 Japanese children with disabilities (1st-6th grades) in inclusive education settings who have regular interactions with typically-developing peers will participate in semi-structured, audio-recorded individual interviews regarding their experiences of disability and stigmatization at school. Cross-cultural analyses of transcribed interviews will be conducted guided by the concept, "universalism without uniformity." First, common issues described by both U.S. and Japanese children will be identified ["Universalism"]. Then cultural variations will be examined focusing on how common issues are experienced by U.S. and Japanese children ["without Uniformity"]. Finally, children's responses will be contextualized within U.S. and Japanese special education policies and practices. The examination of U.S. and Japanese children's experiences can provide policy makers, scholars and professionals with opportunities to learn from each other to formulate culturally- and stigma-sensitive policies, enhance the school functioning of children with disabilities, and promote their development to become contributing members of society.