An investigation of preschool-aged children's perceptions of their peers with a disability
This study combines various aspects of previous research on attitudes and behavioral intentions toward children with a disability. It extends previous research in the attempts to evaluate attitudes and behavioral intentions toward intellectual and physical disability separately in addition to examining "general" disability. Study design also allowed for comparisons of children in both inclusive and non-inclusive settings, which many previous research studies did not provide.
Study findings suggest that preschool children are more positive toward and more willing to interact with typically developing peers than with peers with a disability. Moreover, most preschool children do not have an understanding or awareness of the term disability. Children from inclusive child care settings do have more positive attitudes toward peers with a disability than do children from non-inclusive child care settings, but, overall, even children from inclusive child care settings were more positive toward and more willing to interact with typically developing peers.
From these findings, important research, practice and policy implications can be drawn. Future research should focus on refining methods of data collection and evaluating the effectiveness of interventions designed to increase understanding about disability and positive attitudes and intentions toward peers with a disability.
Policy makers and early childhood practitioners should be aware that inclusion alone is not sufficient to develop understanding and create positive attitudes - additional measures must be undertaken to enhance the understanding of young children about the nature of disability and to increase positive attitudes and willingness to interact with peers with a disability.