BRANDON – An extensive new research partnership looking at families’ experience with early childhood disability services will be introduced to the community at an event on Tuesday, Sept. 25 at Brandon University (BU).
Dr. Patty Douglas, who is the lead for BU’s portion of the project, will be joined by project director and creator Dr. Kathryn Underwood, of Ryerson University, as well as Brandon Friendship Centre (BFC) Executive Director Gail Cullen. They will speak about this national seven-year research partnership on Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the He Oyate Tawapi Ceremony Room on the first floor of the Health Studies Complex at BU. Elder Frank Tacan, BU Dean of Education and Association Vice-President (Research) Dr. Heather Duncan, and daycare staff from the BFC will also attend the local launch of the Inclusive Early Childhood Service Systems (IECSS) project.
The goal of IECSS is to re-imagine the meaning of childhood disability and improve early childhood disability service systems. The researchers hope that the perspective of families and an understanding of the diverse abilities of children will be reflected in social policy.
“I am very excited Brandon University was chosen as one of the research sites for this important national partnership and look forward to learning more from families about their experiences,” said Douglas, an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at BU. “The Brandon Friendship Centre will bring years of experience and system knowledge to the project about meeting the needs of families and children and incorporating Indigenous perspectives into service provision in the province.
“The Brandon site of the Inclusive Early Childhood Service Systems Project will contribute a unique perspective in terms of families and understandings of disability within a small prairie urban centre services hub where service gaps and long waiting lists are common.”
The early years of childhood are widely accepted as a critical time of rapid development that is predictive of many social and developmental outcomes later in life. While Canada has made significant investments in the design and delivery of early childhood education and care policies and services, and there is research on transitions from the early years into schools, there has been little work to examine how institutional differences in the early years affect children with disabilities.
In particular, there is a dearth of knowledge regarding early childhood disability services in specific communities, such as Indigenous communities where figures from the Assembly of First National Environmental Stewardship Unit show the rates of childhood disability are almost double those of the general population.
The IECSS seeks to understand the experiences of families who have young children with disabilities by looking at their earliest experiences with early childhood services. The partnership will bring together nearly 30 researchers and 15 partner organizations from eight communities across Manitoba, Ontario, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories. They will conduct more than 900 interviews with families over a 6-year period. The partnership has an extensive advisory council comprising of Indigenous Elders, a youth advisory component and an international advisory committee as researchers consider how cultural identities influence the interaction of children and families with services.
“The IECSS partnership is an excellent opportunity for the Centre to update and extend its programs and address a recognized need to better understand and serve children with disabilities and their families in our programs,” Cullen said. “Through the partnership we will be able to understand our stakeholders, in particular children and early youth, better, redesign our programs, and address gaps in our service delivery both through academic insights as well as best practices from other partners across Canada and overseas.”