are a growing concern in children. Having a developmental delay becomes more
and more common. One particular developmental disability that comes to mind is
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In the year 2000, about 1 in every 150 children
was diagnosed with ASD. In 2016, 1 in every 68 children, if not more, are
diagnosed with ASD. Fortunately, there are many excellent educational programs
for children with ASD and other intellectual disabilities such as special
education programs, inclusive classrooms, and special schools for children with
disabilities. Inclusion is especially growing and becoming more popular and
effective. An inclusive classroom is one that accepts all students regardless
of ability or disability (and any other potentially discriminatory
characteristics). So, a student who has a disability, whether it is mild or
severe, can be placed in a classroom with their typically developing peers.
This can be beneficial for both parties. Children who are developmentally
delayed aren’t excluded from the education that children who are developing on
a typical basis get to receive, and typically developing students are exposed
to children with disabilities at a young age. Why is this beneficial? Students
of both parties can better their communication skills, which is a huge plus,
especially in early childhood and elementary education situations where
language is still developing. Also, the exposure to children with intellectual
disabilities at a young age can potentially encourage students to be more
accepting as they get older.
This aspect of acceptance
not only applies to developmental disabilities but also to mental illnesses.
There is a huge stigma around both developmental disabilities and mental health
illnesses. Struggling with mental illness is a huge stigmatized problem for
adolescents especially. Battling common adolescent mental illnesses such as
anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder can become even harder when dealing
with stigmas. Both developmental disabilities and mental illnesses come with
social exclusion, especially in schools. This judgment from peers can take away
from one’s education. This paper will explore various sources that prove that
there is a too much social exclusion for children and adolescents with
developmental disabilities and mental health illnesses.
There is a lot of current research on the
social exclusion of children with disabilities worldwide. For example, Nowicki,
Brown and Stepien (2014) analyze elementary students’ thoughts and feeling
about their developmentally disabled classmates by using the concept mapping
approach. Nowicki et al. ultimately find that what tends to drive exclusion is
the difference (2014: 345-55).
Stigmas around intellectual disabilities
are what drives the thought the difference is bad. Meyer (2013) discusses such
stigmas and reveals the misconceptions about destigmatizing disabilities.
Disabilities become overgeneralized in the efforts to remove the stigma surrounding
them that it actually becomes ineffective. If stigmas are properly removed, the
driving force of difference discussed above could be lessened when students
realize that the difference is merely physical and that disabled humans are
One specific developmentally disability
that is often overlooked is cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a neurological
disorder which is caused by a malformation of the uterus during fetal
development when the brain is still growing and developing. Cerebral palsy (CP)
refers to impairment or even the loss of motor function, and it affects body
movement and muscle coordination more than anything else. Brain damage that
causes CP often occurs from the umbilical cord wrapping around the baby before
or during birth. The physical impairment is caused by a partial paralysis
(palsy means a form of paralysis). This paralysis is caused by the brain
damage. People with CP often have characteristics that show their physical
impairment, and since they look and move differently, there is often judgments
towards them. Lindsay and McPherson (2012) explore the exclusion of students
with cerebral palsy through carrying out in-depth interviews and by forming a
focus group of children with cerebral palsy in order to understand the
consequences of bullying in (specifically physically) disabled children. This
revealed that disabled children are often victims of bullying and exclusion.
The children with CP also reported that their teachers played a huge part in
their victimization of bullying and the impact it played on their lives.
Davis and Watson (2001) discuss the
experiences of students in both mainstream and special education classrooms and
reveal criticisms that come from children in these classrooms. Davis and Watson
(2001) also reveal barriers that special education classrooms create, which
defends why inclusive classrooms are important. They present the ideas that
disabled students are just “different” and shouldn’t have to be
institutionalized or segregated. Real conversations between teachers and
students are presented. Many of the teachers reveal that they want the students
to be polite, and disabled students who are not capable of being as
well-mannered in the sense the teachers are searching for are punished to another
classroom. This all reveals the unacceptance of disabled students even on the
Not only are intellectually disabled
students excluded in school, but they are also rejected from out-of-school
events. Knight (2008) reviews the studies “On Holiday!” and “Everybody Here?”
which reveal the difficulties disabled children face when it comes to social
events. They are often left out of such events for a multitude of reasons: some
are physically inaccessible, and they are not invited to or left out of others
because of their “differences.” Disabled children are often bored on school
holiday breaks, as well as disappointed from being excluded from social or
holiday events. Knight also explains the impact this has on the child’s family as
well, which is often stress.
The article by Undheim and Sund (2010)
reveals that this is not only in early childhood settings as it seems presented
above – this continues through adolescent. Disabled teenagers after excluded
too for their intellectual disabilities and mental illnesses. Undheim and Sund
(2010) collect data in Norway that illustrates the prevalence of bullying in
the 12-to-15-year-old age group. Areas of data collected include noticeable
depressive symptoms, emotional and behavioral problems, self-esteem and
aggressive behavior. Undheim and Sund (201) go even further to reveal the
impact of bullying on mental illness and disability.
I obtained my data by researching the
social exclusion of children with special needs. I drew sources from the
database Academic Search Complete. I did a variety of searches including
“exclusion of children with disabilities,” “exclusion in special education
classrooms,” and “social exclusion of disabled children.” I took my time
researching to try to find the best sources. The most difficult part was
finding ways to search for what I was looking for that differentiated social
exclusion from the difference between inclusive classrooms and exclusively
special education classrooms. I read several peer-reviewed articles in the
database to choose the best ones. I also used Google Scholar to research even
more and find other sources that were not readily available on Academic Search
I also have experience in this as I am an
early childhood special education major and have worked with various groups of
children before and have seen these kinds of instances of social exclusion with
my own eyes. This helped me to validate the research studies I have reviewed.
The tendency of exclusion has not only
affected schools but also in business as well and this is the reason why people
with mental disabilities are not given an opportunity to carry out business.
This behavior has been going on for a long time and this is due to the belief that
the challenged people are lesser human and they do not deserve opportunities
like anyone else but this is not true. Stigma is affected such people in the
community and this should be discouraged as it has contributed to exclusion.
Schools have contributed to exclusion as the mentally challenged students are
not given an opportunity to study with other students. They are not admitted to
school and in return, they are sent to their special school and this is what
has contributed to the victimization of the highest order. For example, the
children with autism are excluded from social life not only by learning
institutions but also by parents who get disappointed by them and decide to
deny them their basic rights.
The children grow discriminated by the society
due to their disabilities which should not be the case. This is a tendency that
should be eliminated from the society as it is holding back many children who
have a potential to have a better life. There is the need for the society to be
educated on the importance of loving and respecting everyone regardless of
their abilities and conditions. Exclusion exists due to lack of knowledge on
what brings about the disorder and mental disabilities and that is why it is
important for people to be taught the importance of inclusion. The society
should avoid the tendency of exclusion which is causing stigma to the children
with autism and other disorders. Adolescents are more affected by exclusion and
this has led to a number of incidences such as suicide. Therefore, it is
evident that exclusion has a number of effects on humans and there is need to
eliminate social exclusion as it is of no importance.
J. M., & Watson, N. (2001). Where Are the Children’s Experiences? Analyzing
Exclusion in ‘Special’ and ‘Mainstream’ Schools. Disability & Society,
Knight, A. (2008). Holidays, play and disabled
children. Community Care, (1709), 24-25.
Lindsay, S., & McPherson, A. C. (2012). Experiences
of social exclusion and bullying at school
among children and youth
with cerebral palsy. Disability & Rehabilitation, 34(2), 101-
Meyer, A. E. (2013). “But she’s
not retarded”: Contemporary Adolescent Literature Humanizes
but Marginalizes Intellectual Disability. Children’s Literature
267-283. The Johns Hopkins University Press. Retrieved October 27,
from Project MUSE database.
Nowicki, E. A., Brown, J., & Stepien, M.
(2014). Children’s thoughts on the social exclusion of
peers with intellectual
or learning disabilities. Journal of Intellectual Disability
Research, 58(4), 346-357.
Undheim, A. M., & Sund, A. M. (2010).
Prevalence of bullying and aggressive behavior and
their relationship to
mental health problems among 12- to 15-year-old Norwegian
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