NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: A color photo of a preschool child in a walker playing with his classmates is available from Purdue News Service, (765) 494-2096. Ask for the photo called Diamond/Preschoolers.
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Children with disabilities benefit from being around normally developing peers, but what effect does being around a child in a wheelchair -- or one with hearing aids -- have on the typical preschooler?
That's the question behind ongoing research by Karen E. Diamond, associate professor of child development and family studies at Purdue University. She also directs Purdue's Child Development Labs, a preschool program that includes children with disabilities.
The preschool years may be the most fruitful for teaching children about disabilities, she says. "You don't see the teasing of other children and overt meanness that can be displayed by older kids. Also, preschoolers are open and curious. They ask a lot of questions. They also like to test and learn about the equipment that's associated with disabilities -- such as walkers and computer aids," Diamond says.
Her latest findings support the belief that preschoolers who know peers with disabilities are more accepting of other children with disabilities. In a study of 45 children ages 3 to 6 years who were in a preschool program with youngsters with disabilities, Diamond found the majority of them were likely to suggest that they could "be friends" with a hypothetical child in a wheelchair. "These kids' acceptance ratings of children with disabilities were significantly higher than those of preschool children in regular classes," she says. The study will appear in the winter 1996 edition of the journal Topics in Early Childhood Special Education.
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