Werner, S., Peretz, H., & Roth, D. (2015). Children's attitudes toward children with and without disabilities. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 33, 98-107.
Republished from Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 33, Werner, S., Peretz, H., & Roth, D., Children's attitudes toward children with and without disabilities, 98-107, (2015), with permission from Elsevier.
About the research
The present study was undertaken at the initiative of Beit Issie Shapiro, as a result of the experience acquired over many years of wide-ranging activities dealing with the attitudes of the community towards people with disabilities. The research, comparing the attitudes of children in preschool towards children with physical disabilities, children with impaired hearing, and regular children, is the first of its kind in Israel, and furthermore, very little research attention has been paid to the subject in professional literature from around the world.
The ability to accept people with disabilities, in all areas of life, as an integral part of society is an essential part of implementing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Despite the increasing discussion of this subject, and the considerable progress in the subject of physical accessibility, a great deal still remains to be done to create social accessibility.
Social accessibility is only possible in a society in which there are no stigmas or negative prejudices towards people with disabilities, which present a major barrier for people with disabilities, preventing them from fully participating in community life. Inclusive frameworks and accessible community systems support the social change that is necessary to succeed in achieving equal rights for all.
The kindergarten can be the first environment in which children with disabilities experience full inclusion together with their peers, or alternatively, feel rejected and isolated. It is therefore very important to examine the attitudes of children without disabilities towards children with disabilities, and to build educational programs accordingly.
Attitudes are made up of three aspects: cognitive, emotional, and behavioral. The cognitive aspect includes a person’s perception of objects or people, and enables processes of generalization to be carried over from a familiar situation to an unfamiliar situation. The cognitive aspect examines which qualities the child attributes to people with disabilities. Cognitive perceptions are associatively connected with different feelings, which are produced by the emotional aspect of the attitude, and affect the person’s future behavior in interactions with the object of the attitude. In this context, the behavioral aspect examines the child’s willingness to make contact with children with disabilities.
For the purpose of the research, a unique tool was developed at Beit Issie Shapiro, incorporating pictures in which the children were asked to express their attitudes towards different children with regard to the three aspects. 106 children took part in the research, from 10 kindergartens across the country.
From the findings it arose that children had more positive attitudes, in all aspects, towards children without disabilities by comparison with their attitudes towards children with physical or sensory disabilities. Children attribute more negative qualities to children with disabilities, such as dirty, bad, sick, and so on; prefer to play and be with children without disabilities; and express more negative feelings with regard to possible situations of interaction with a child with disabilities by comparison with a child without disabilities. In addition, in the cognitive aspect more negative attitudes were found towards children with a sensory disability than towards children with a physical disability.
The findings indicate the importance of education starting in early childhood, giving age-appropriate information, and including the parents and the educational staff in building and shaping positive attitudes, and creating a solid foundation for an inclusive and accepting society.