Perspectives of elementary school educators in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the US on disability, stigmatization and children's developing self Part 1: Defining the problem in cultural context


The stigmatization of individuals with disabilities is a widespread social justice issue. This paper introduces a study of disability, stigmatization and self for children with disabilities and their typically-developing peers. It is the first of two companion papers. It examines the problem of stigmatization from the perspectives of experienced elementary school educators practicing in diverse cultural contexts. We conducted cross-cultural analyses of individual, audio recorded interviews with 26 Japanese, 43 Korean, 16 Taiwanese and 18 US educators, including school social workers. Educators from all four cultural groups described disability and stigma as challenging children's development of self: children with disabilities may experience the self as isolated and inadequate, and typically-developing peers may experience the self as lacking culturally expected values of empathy and respect. Educators' understandings of children's experiences also were culturally nuanced. Educators variously described children with disabilities as experiencing a sense of not belonging [Japan], loss of motivation [South Korea], too much shame [Taiwan], and low self-esteem [US]. They variously described typically-developing children as challenged to show empathy [Japan], include children with disabilities in their peer group [South Korea], develop benevolence [Taiwan], and show respect for individual differences [US]. We contextualize educators' perceptions within their specific sociocultural-historical contexts. Our second paper will focus on solutions; specifically, educators' perspectives on how to minimize stigmatization and support the development of self for children with disabilities and their typically-developing peers. Together, these companion papers provide social workers with valuable perspectives for eliminating the stigmatization of children with disabilities in future generations.

Publication Title

Children and Youth Services Review