Becoming comfortable with an adult with an orthopedic handicap: Preschool children's behaviors in context


Children often have negative reactions when interacting with an individual with an orthopedic handicap, these reactions being related to the physical demands of task and situation. It has been suggested, but not systematically evaluated, that these negative reactions can be lessened as children interact with the individual. In this study, preschool children were observed during each of two play tasks that demanded different levels of physical activity: reading and Nerf basketball. Each child played both tasks either with an adult sitting in a chair or with the same adult sitting in a wheelchair. Children's comfort was evaluated in terms of how close they sat to the adult during reading and how involved they were during basketball, at the beginning, middle, and end of both play sessions. For both play contexts, and for both the chair and wheelchair conditions, the children became more comfortable over time (after 8 min during reading; after 4 min during basketball). Task demands and handicap status of the adult influenced the children's behavior. Overall, they were rated as less comfortable during basketball when the adult was seated in a wheelchair than when the adult was in a chair. This research highlights the importance of evaluating children's behavior in context and suggests avenues by which the impact of children's negative attitudes toward the handicapped can be lessened. © 1994.

Publication Title

Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology