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Melissa Binks

EDFD 136 Essay on disability

S00142914

As society is advancing children are spending less time outdoors and more time engaged in sedentary play. This
shift in activity and engagement may be having a negative impact on childrens health and wellbeing. Obesity is
on the rise and childhood disability is following with more children being diagnosed with a range of disabilities
each year. With the rise in disabilities in children, how are schools accommodating? Are schools becoming
more inclusive of children with disabilities or are they finding it too hard to adapt their practices to the needs of
these children? In this article I will be looking at research from both America and Australia found in the
Australian Journal of Early Childhood, The Future of Children journal in America and the Annual Review of
Psychology. The UN convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities describes someone with a disability
as including those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in
interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis
with others (United Nations, 2007, p. 4). According to Article 23 of the UN convention on the rights of the
child children who have any kind of disability have the right to special care and support, as well as all the
rights in the Convention, so that they can live full and independent lives (United Nations, 1989, p. 3).

The Future of Childrens article, The Changing Landscape of Disability in Childhood looks at the changing
perceptions of childhood disability in America over the last century. Disability is no longer a term used to
describe a physical ailment, but a less recognisable and neurodevelopmental disorder which is typically
represented by a child with a less identifiable disability such as autism (Halfon, Houtrow, Larson &
Newacheck, 2012). Studies show that children with disabilities are at a higher risk of living a life with a
diminished health-related quality of life as well as experiencing negative social and psychological impacts.
Despite this rise in prevalence of disability in America communities and health systems are often unable to
provide the resources for children with disabilities and their families necessary to achieve optimal health and
social outcomes (Halfon, Houtrow, Larson & Newacheck, p.14, 2012). Although I have not experienced a
child with a disability at my placement, the centre and staff seem well equipped to accommodate any child that
would need any extra assistance. The centre is accepting of all of the children in their care and would
undoubtedly provide the care needed for a child with a disability. While there can be extremes of disability, in

children, disability is explained in the context of delays, deviations and variations from the expected growth of
a child (Halfon, Houtrow, Larson & Newacheck, 2012). From this description of disabilities, early childhood
centres do not have to be specifically prepared for a child with a disability, instead they can be prepared for
children who are behind developmentally, as this is how disability is visible in the early years. While the
education system used to look at disability in a negative light there has been a shift recently in how the
education system responds to children with mental, behavioural, and developmental problems (Halfon,
Houtrow, Larson & Newacheck, 2012).
The Annual Review of Psychology looks at the initial thoughts and ideas surrounding Autism in its article,
Autism in Infancy and Early Childhood. Autism was first described by Kanner, who emphasised that children
with autism were born without the usual predisposition to be social (Volkmar, Chawarska, & Klin, 2005,
p.316). While a lack of social skills is still seen as a common trait of children with autism, it is now known that
it is a more complicated disability. The most common symptoms reported by parents for children less than 2
years of age are speech delays, hearing problems and high irritability (Volkmar et al., 2005). While these traits
may be present in children it does not automatically mean they have autism. Although a child may seem to be
struggling in their speech, they may just be experiencing delays rather then it being a sign that the child has
autism. There is a higher amount of research surrounding the diagnosis and study of toddlers who have autism,
as parents are more likely to seek evaluation of their child as they get older (Volkmar et al., 2005). Autism
effects a childs social, functioning, communicative development and cognitive development. As data from case
studies become more prevalent and available more children are being correctly diagnosed with autism and are
continually supported.
The Australian Journal of Early Childhood featured an article in 2004, which was entitled Meeting the Needs of
Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the Early Years and looked at the idea that early
intervention and support for children with a disability can have a significant impact on the quality of their life
(Jordan, 2004). Impairments experienced by children with Autism include difficulties in emotional and social
understanding, a lack of flexibility in thinking and behaviour as well as difficulties in communication (Jordan,
2004). The article suggests that while looking at the impairments and traits of a child can be beneficial we
cannot purely rely on the behaviours of the child to help us understand what the child is thinking, feeling and
understanding. At placement there is a child who the staff members believe may be autistic due to her

behaviour and lack of communication. While the childs behaviour helps us to see what she is understanding the
behaviour itself cannot tell us what she needs or how to help her. As educators we need to help the child
compensate for any difficulties they experience and help the child develop in ways that address the features of
ASD (Jordan, 2004). In the early years children with ASD need to develop a system for deciphering and
responding to social signals, so they are able to adapt to their environment as they enter primary school
education. It is important for childrens ways of coping to be looked at individually as each child deals with
situations in different ways and will need assistance in different areas.
As more children with autism are entering into general schools teachers need to become aware of how to adjust
their teaching methods and activities appropriately. It is important that educators in both early childhood
settings and primary schools become aware of how children with autism learn and the traits that will become
relevant in the classroom. Children who have autism can be rigid and inflexible with their thinking, which
means that a daily routine that does not change may help them to settle into the classroom (Sims & Hutchins,
2013). Children with autism and other intellectual disabilities need to be given the chance to flourish in the
classroom and to participate in as many activities possible that other children are doing. The education system
needs to accommodate for both children with and without disabilities and every child should have the right to
be included in the daily classroom activities.

Reference list:
Halfon, N. & Houtrow, A. & Larson, K. & Newacheck, P. W.(2012). The Changing Landscape of Disability in
Childhood. The Future of Children 22(1), 13-42. Princeton University. Retrieved from http://muse
.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/future_of_children/v022/22.1.halfon.html
Jordan, R. (2004). Meeting the needs of children with autism spectrum disorder in the early years, Australian
Journal of Early Childhood, 29(3), 1-7. Retrieved from
http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/pdf/ajec/ajec0403_autistic.pdf

Sims, M. and Hutchins, T. (2011). Program planning for infants and toddlers. Baulkham Hills, N.S.W.:
Pademelon Press.

UN General Assembly, Convention on the Rights of the Child, 20 November 1989, United Nations, Treaty
Series, vol. 1577, p. 3, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6b38f0.html
UN General Assembly, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities : resolution / adopted by the
General Assembly, 24 January 2007, retrieved from http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id =261
Volkmar, F., Chawarska, K., & Klin, A. (2005). Autism in Infancy and Early Childhood. Annual Review of
Psychology, 56, 315-336. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.56.091103.070159