Children's lack of knowledge about disability can adversely impact their attitudes toward people with disabilities. The purpose of this study is to review the common elements of effective disability awareness interventions.
A systematic review of disability awareness interventions for children and youth was conducted to assess the effective components of these interventions. Electronic searches were conducted using OVID, CENTRAL, PsychInfo, ERIC, Social Science Citation Index, GreyNET Scopus and Google Scholar. The inclusion criteria included (i) an intervention raising awareness about disability, (ii) school-age children with the average age between 5-19 years old, (iii) at least one measurable outcome focusing on knowledge about disability or attitudes towards and/or acceptance of people with a disability and (iv) published article or grey literature.
Of the 1031 articles that were identified in the search, 42 met the criteria to be included in the review. We classified the disability awareness interventions into 5 broad types including (i) social contact, (ii) simulation, (iii) curriculum, (iv) multi-media curriculum and (v) multiple components. Thirty-four studies showed an improvement in attitudes towards and/or acceptance of peers with disabilities. Eight of these studies also demonstrated an improvement in knowledge of people with disabilities. Five of the interventions found no support for improving knowledge about, or acceptance of people with disabilities.
Disability awareness interventions can successfully improve children's knowledge about and attitudes towards peers with a disability; they should include several different components over multiple sessions.
These findings are being used to further develop disability awareness interventions to help improve the social inclusion and participation of children with disabilities within mainstream classrooms.