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“We know what to say—do we know what to do?” Confronting the disconnection between legislation, policy, and practices for inclusion of young children with disabilities

Lesley Lyons

The rights of children with disabilities to access and fully participate in early childhood education and care (ECEC) centres are protected by key international legislation including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Furthermore, Aotearoa New Zealand’s legislation reinforces international conventions by way of the Human Rights Act (1989) and The New Zealand Disability Strategy. This legislation, and subsequent policy, has clearly placed the responsibility for including young children with disabilities in the hands of teachers, managers, and owners in the ECEC sector. In this article I argue that such social justice discourse has provided the early childhood sector with ways to speak about disability and inclusion, yet there is a growing body of evidence to show that there is a disconnection between how teachers speak about the inclusion of children with disabilities and the ways in which inclusion is playing out in some full-day ECEC contexts. The evidence reported in this article is drawn from my doctoral research project which, in part, examined perceptions of inclusion gathered via semistructured interviews with teachers, owners, and managers in full-day ECEC—those facilities designed to accommodate adults’ usual working hours. A group of six “professional” parents of young children with “noticeable” disabilities also contributed their views and experiences to the study.

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