Debra Mayer MA Director, SpeciaLink. This chapter appears in the recently published Beyond Child’s Play: Caring for and educating young children in Canada Our Schools/ Our Selves, Spring 2009 (vol. 18, no. 3, #95) published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Ottawa.
Excerpts from chapter:
As we move towards the end of the first decade of the 21st century, Canadian families continue to be stymied by the lack of a national early learning and care system, and policy makers continue to be confounded by the concept of a “rights based” rationale for children’s entitlement to early learning services separate from their parents employment status. This policy quagmire, detailed by others in this volume, is especially problematic for families raising children with special needs, defined by the OECD as “all children…who require additional public or private resources beyond those normally required to support healthy development. This definition includes children…who require additional resources because of exceptional gifts and talents, physical, sensory, cognitive and learning challenges, mental health issues as well as problems due to social, cultural, linguistic or family factors.” We require a fundamental shift in attitudes among our policy makers, funders and service providers to ensure that all children with disabilities and other special support needs have their rights guaranteed and respected, and have the supports they need to live, grow, and thrive in their families and communities. The concepts of inclusion, accessibility, and universality must be enshrined within a national early learning and child care act that fulfills those commitments and legal requirements under the law. How far off is that ‘shift’? And what is required in order for it to occur?