Early Exposure to People with Physical and Sensory Disabilities and Later Attitudes Toward Social Interactions and Inclusion
Emily M. Lund, Tom Seekins
This study assessed the relationship between exposure to classmates with visible impairments in primary and secondary schools with later attitudes toward people with disabilities. Fifty college students (mean age = 20.28 years; 76% female) completed measures assessing the extent and quality of recalled exposure to classmates with disabilities in elementary and secondary school. Attitudes toward social inclusion and toward a hypothetical social interaction were also measured. Participants reported generally high levels and quality of exposure, with significantly more exposure at the secondary level. Quality of exposure at both the elementary and secondary levels was significantly (p < .01) correlated with more positive cognitions (i.e., thoughts) during a hypothetical social interaction. Cognitions were not significantly correlated with emotions or behaviors and amount of elementary exposure was negatively correlated with attitudes to social inclusion (p < .05). These results suggest a possible relation between positive early experiences and later friendship intentions that should be further explored.