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Kids’ Attitudes About Disabilities Improve With Exposure

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Children who are exposed to people with disabilities — either directly or indirectly — have more positive attitudes about those with special needs, researchers say.

In a survey of 1,520 kids ages 7 to 16, researchers found that increased familiarity with those who have disabilities led to less anxiety and better attitudes.

“We have known for some time that integrating children with disabilities into the regular classroom can improve attitudes. What we have established here is just how much of a difference a greater presence in day-to-day life makes,” said Megan MacMillan of the University of Exeter Medical School in England who presented the findings Thursday at the British Psychological Society’s annual conference.

To assess their attitudes, the children were surveyed about their feelings and level of contact with people with disabilities.

Even in cases where kids did not have direct contact with a person with a disability, but observed or heard about a friend’s interaction with such an individual, researchers found there were benefits, with children showing reduced anxiety about those with disabilities and increased empathy.

MacMillan said the findings indicate that promoting further interaction between typically developing children and those with special needs could help reduce discrimination.

“Improving attitudes can have long-lasting effects and can help children with disabilities to succeed,” MacMillan said.

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Comments (7 Responses)

  1. Mary says:

    They actually had to do a survey to figure this out?

  2. wiredONdevelopment says:

    Sometimes the obvious is only obvious to the policy makers when it is in black and white – the more research to point out the obvious the better!

  3. Kristi says:

    I have known this for many, many years!

  4. Jessica Hester says:

    I believe getting other kids around children with disabilities is an excellent idea. The reason I believe this is, the other kids can have a greater idea of how these children have to live their lives. Children with disabilities of all types are no different then ones without them. The only difference is how they live their lives. These children with disabilities are happy, caring, loving people just like everyone else. Its a great idea to get the kids that think its funny how children with disabilities are, for those children to spend a day around the ones with disabilities, so they will have to see just how hard life is for some. My opinion is no matter how hard someone else’s life may be or just because others may have issues you don’t does NOT give anyone the right to “make fun” of the children that do. So yes this is a good idea.

  5. Brianna Lowery says:

    This is something I think should be looked into more. Because there could be risk in doin so.

  6. Terry Wiens says:

    Having grown up with my own disability this is a strong argument for inclusion in the school system. It does build a much more compassion and informed future society. With that said many of students with disabilities are expected to be able to compete in a system based on academic achievement which some disabilities may just not be able to be truly successful in. However keeping all students in the same school system does not mean that they all need to compete in the same environment. Looking at what type of skills many of these students will need when attaining adulthood and then teaching them those skills would make more sense than pretending that math 12 will really be an option.

  7. Tara says:

    This is so so true, I live in a very rural community.. And we moved here when my son was 4 and the children here never really knew a child with Autism until then.. These kids have taken him, protected him from things that scare him, understand that he might scream or cry, and love him… It’s amazing! This past April we had a Autism awareness day and over 75 little girls got blue hair extensions in their hair to raise awareness… The boys all put on tattoos… I cried because it was so touching…

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