Early Childhood Intervention: Module One – Typical and Atypical Development

Overview of Disability and its Impact on Canadian Culture

Canadian children with disabilities are a diverse group coming from a variety of cultural and faith backgrounds. Some children live with their families in large urban centers and some live in very isolated and rural communities; some are from other countries and some are aboriginal; some live in two-parent families and some live in lone-parent families.

Historically,  many children with disabilities have been invisible. Many of them were raised in large institutions, away from their families and communities.  At the beginning of the 19th century in Europe, a person with a disability was seen as punishment; in other cultural traditions, it was perceived that the parent or family had done something wrong.

Changes in these perspectives occurred after the 1920’s with the Industrial Revolution. During this time, a child with a disability was seen as a burden and caring for this child and keeping them at home would cause hardship on the family.  By the 1980’s professionals had persuaded many parents to institutionalize their child.

The movement to take children and people with disabilities out of institutions began in the 1980’s. The inclusive movement, where children and persons with disabilities are seen as active and contributing members of society, only started in Canada about 30 years ago. Still, some people born during the past three decades in Canada, and in other places, may have no experience with people with disabilities. This is especially true for families coming from countries who hold similar beliefs about disability to those held in Canadian society only 30 years ago.

Our Canadian society is moving towards inclusion.  According to Hanvey2 (2002) an inclusive society is one where “children are involved in activities and social structures in a way that is meaningful to their own unique experiences.” Inclusion means belonging to a community as equal participants.  This is why it should not be the responsibility of the child and family to fit any “program” or “activity.”  Real inclusion occurs when society takes on the challenge to provide a meaningful place for a child. Inclusive societies value diversity and recognize and value the common experiences and aspirations families have for themselves and their children.

Some would say we have come a long way, and others would say we have a long way to go.

1. see References
2. see References

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