The home environments of children with disabilities: implications for peer relationships and self-determination
Christine C. Cook
The research reported here explores the role of the home environment in the development of peer relationships and skills contributing to self-determination for children with disabilities. More specifically, the roles that parents and the physical environment play in regulating peer relationships and providing opportunities to exert control, make choices and act independently in the home are examined. A literature review and two research studies examining the home environments of children with disabilities are presented;The first study uses qualitative data analysis of in-depth family interviews and home observations to examine the experiences children with disabilities have with peers in the home environment. Results indicate many children with disabilities spend limited time with peers in the home environment. Parents of children with disabilities, parents of peers of children with disabilities, peers of children with disabilities, characteristics of the disability, and characteristics of the home and neighborhood are identified as contributors to the opportunities children with disabilities have to interact with peers. Recommendations for increasing opportunities for children with disabilities to interact with peers in the home environment are provided;The second study presents findings from the In-Home Checklist (INHC), a series of questions assessing the amount of access and control children with disabilities experience in the home, and the Parent Attitude Survey (PAS), an instrument designed to measure parents' attitudes towards self-determination. Case studies from in-depth family interviews and home observations add depth to the information reported from the INHC and PAS. Results indicate parents of children with disabilities value the development of self-determination in their children with disabilities. However, many children in this sample had limited opportunities to develop these skills in the home environment. Parent attitudes towards self-determination, and the severity of the disability were both related to children's opportunities to make choices, act independently, and interact with peers in the home environment. Ways that professionals working with families of children with disabilities can help parents structure the home environment to support the development of self-determination in their children are explored.