Prof. Shunit Reiter

University of Haifa - Faculty of Education
Department of Special Education

Prof. Shunit Reiter>CV>Offices in University Academic Administration



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In my academic work I have tried to strengthen the links between theory and practice. This is expressed in my diverse professional activities. The following are some of the highlights of my academic work. 

For more than 30 years I have been involved in developing a theoretical framework for understanding people with disabilities first and foremost as human beings who are not different than other people except for the need to overcome difficulties arising out of their disabilities.  Additionally, I believe that it is the responsibility of researchers in my filed to show how philosophical, cultural and theoretical models have direct implications for practice, whether in education, vocational training, or support services for disabled people. I have always felt that any research or project concerning the lives of people with disabilities should insure that the models and theories we suggest do not remain mere abstractions but are transformed into new approaches and services that contribute to a better quality of life for the disabled. Already in my PhD. Dissertation, I asked young adults with intellectual disabilities (in England) about their interests, dreams, wishes, inclinations, and fears. Since then in my own research and in that of my numerous masters and doctoral students, we listen to the disabled and seek ways to improve the support we give them.

My special contribution can be found in the exposition of the Humanistic paradigm of special education and human services to the disabled and in exploring the implications of this paradigm for the ways we treat, educate, assist, support, and include disabled people in society.  In my first book, Disability and Society, I offered a coherent approach to the treatment of disabled members of society by comparing the underlying principles of three models, the welfare, medical and humanistic approaches and by suggesting a theoretical framework that can be depicted as a pyramid, with the welfare model as its basis, the medical model complementing it, and the humanistic model encompassing the other two.  Based on this Humanistic approach, I later developed a theoretical model for educational and treatment programs called "The Cycle of Internalized Learning (CIL)."  The CIL model is the basis of the national core curriculum guidelines for special education students in Israel.  It provides clear stages in teaching and educating students with disabilities towards autonomy.  I presented the model in several international conferences and taught it in two special courses as a contribution of the Israeli Foreign Office to the state of Vietnam, and as a guest lecturer in India.  In both countries it received warm appreciation.  My book, Disability from a Humanistic Perspective: Towards a better Quality of Life, summarizes my special contribution in theory and in practice to the field of special education.

My research has also focused on comparative international studies, especially as concerned with educational and rehabilitation services.  For example, I was the head of the Israeli team in a comparative study between the U.S. and Israel on vocational rehabilitation services. The study, which lasted four years, was funded by the US Department of Labor, under a contract with Temple University and the University of Haifa.  In another study, I took part in an international research effort to develop an assessment instrument on "quality of life" for persons with developmental disabilities free from cultural bias. The research was done in collaboration with Dr. Robert Schalock, of Hastings, Nebraska.  Other countries involved included Germany, Australia, Switzerland, Taiwan. Similarly, with Prof. Diane Bryen, Head of the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University, I conducted a bi-national study on people with disabilities as victims of abuse. The research was the focus of a jointly supervised thesis that won the second highest price at our university for the best Master's thesis of the year.

My research has also addressed the evaluation of educational, social and vocational services for children and adults with developmental disabilities. For example, I was the principle investigator in a the follow-up study of special education schools graduates, and participated in action research conducted under the aegis of the Spivak Center for Physical Activities of Persons with Physical Disabilities, on the effects of the inclusion of non-disabled students in programs run for the physically handicapped at the center.

In collaboration with Diane Bryen, I also founded "MISHAL" the Israeli University Center on Disabilities in the University of Haifa, Faculty of Education.  MISHAL is an affiliate member of the American University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD). The center runs research programs, demonstration projects, organizes conferences and disseminates information.  Its vision is the enhancement of quality of life for persons with disabilities. In the last couple of years we started a ground breaking program providing academic studies to students with intellectual disabilities.

Through the Kounin-Lunenfeld Chair of Special Education, I initiated, and serve as editor-in-chief, of  the only academic journal in special education in Israel – Issues in Special Education and Rehabilitation (SACHISH).