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Understanding disability as socially and culturally constructed – what does this mean for inclusive early childhood education?

Shihan Li, Justine O’Hara-Gregan, and Jude MacArthur

In New Zealand, every child has the right to participate in inclusive, quality early childhood education (ECE), as outlined in the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC). However, research reveals both the struggles children with disabilities and their families experience to have their rights recognised and upheld, and the lack of confidence early childhood (EC) teachers report related to working with diverse groups of children. Drawing on an appreciative case study, this article uses a framework of disability studies in education and sociocultural theory to illustrate how understanding disability as socially constructed can contribute to inclusive ECE practice. The findings from this case study provide EC teachers with approaches to inclusive practice, and may generate further dialogue about inclusion.

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