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Disability or Learning Difficulty? Politicians or Educators? Constructing Special Education in Finland and the United States

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image of Comparative Sociology
For content published from 1960-2001, see International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

This article examines institutional arrangements, disability constructions, and policy designs in Finland and the United States. In the US disability is constructed from a medical, diagnosis-driven discrepancy model, and politicians operating in an“equal opportunity” and“civil rights” framework shape policy. In Finland, diagnostic labels are rarely used, and students are referred to as experiencing academic difficulty. Policies are more strongly shaped by educators than politicians.

Affiliations: 1: Education, California State University-Channel Islands One University Drive, 2844 Bell Tower East, Camarillo, CA 93012, USA, Email:; 2: Educational Psychology University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2G5 Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2G5, Email:


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