Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Education

Supervisor

Neil, Nicole

2nd Supervisor

Puvirajah, Anton

Co-Supervisor

Abstract

This dissertation addresses the current practices, facilitators, and barriers toward inclusion and participation for children with neurodevelopmental disorders, including intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) at informal education settings (IES). The first research paper is a scoping review examining practices for supporting participation at IES for children with neurodevelopmental disorders. Characteristics of studies, practices used to promote inclusion, and outcomes measures were identified. The findings of this study emphasized the current practices being utilized at IES for children with neurodevelopmental disorders.

The second research paper is qualitative descriptive study of the facilitators and barriers to inclusion for children with IDD at museums, aquariums, zoos, and science centers (MAZSC) across Canada. Ten participants, each from 10 different MAZSC across Canada, participated in semi-structured interviews examining the practices within their organizations which lent themselves to facilitators and barriers to inclusion. The findings of this study illuminated three major themes: 1) profiles of children’s learning and engagement; 2) facilitators toward participation and inclusion; and 3) barriers to inclusion and participation. These themes highlighted the progress which has been made in establishing facilitators toward inclusion, as well as highlighting barriers currently impacting children with IDD from fully participating.

The third research paper is a qualitative descriptive study of the nature of staff training in support of children with IDD and their families at MAZSC within Canada. Ten participants, each from 10 separate MAZSC participated in semi-structured interviews. Three overarching themes emerged from the data: 1) leveraging staff diversity in supporting families and children with IDD; 2) staff training opportunities; 3) staff training barriers. The emergent themes emphasized the rich and diverse backgrounds of staff members committed to engaging and supporting visiting children with IDD and their families and the opportunities and gaps in staff and volunteer training in support of children with IDD.

Overall, the findings of these studies suggest that, while progress has been made to improve opportunities for inclusion and participation for children with IDD, barriers continue to prevent participation and inclusion. Further research is needed to continue to reduce and eliminate barriers toward inclusion for children with IDD at IES.

Summary for Lay Audience

This three-study dissertation highlights ways in which children with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) can experience inclusion and participation at informal education settings (IES), such as camps, recreational programs, and museums. The first study was a scoping literature review which looked at the literature base to find what current practices help children with neurodevelopmental disorders, including children with IDD, experience participation. This study found that children with neurodevelopmental disorders experience improved self-esteem and sense of belonging when they experience inclusion and participation. Their ability to be social, think, read, learn, and remember also improves. The findings of this study emphasized the benefits and needs for practices which promote inclusion for children with neurodevelopmental disorders at IES.

The second study explored the facilitators and barriers that children with IDD encounter at museums, aquariums, zoos, and science centers (MAZSC) across Canada. Ten participants, each from 10 different MAZSC across Canada participated in interviews to explore this. The findings showed three major themes: 1) profiles of children’s learning and engagement; 2) facilitators toward participation and inclusion; and 3) barriers to inclusion and participation. These themes show the progress that has been made in establishing facilitators toward inclusion, as well as highlighting barriers currently impacting children with IDD from fully participating.

The third research paper explored staff training at MAZSC in Canada specifically to support children with IDD when they visit these sites. Ten participants, each from 10 separate MAZSC participated in interviews. From these interviews, three themes emerged: 1) leveraging staff diversity in supporting families and children with IDD; 2) staff training opportunities; 3) staff training barriers. These themes showed the rich and diverse backgrounds of staff members committed to engaging and supporting visiting children with IDD and their families, as well as the opportunities and gaps in staff and volunteer training in support of children with IDD.

Overall, the findings suggest that, while progress has been made to improve opportunities for inclusion for children with IDD at IES, barriers to participation and inclusion continue to exist. Further research is required to understand and eliminate barriers to participation and inclusion for this population within these settings.

Available for download on Tuesday, August 30, 2022

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