Israeli Kindergartners Have Negative Views of Disabled Children, Study Finds

Survey of kindergartners aged 4 to 6, none of whom had disabled children in class, found that 40% consider children with disabilities as ‘bad.’

Children in a Tel Aviv kindergarten.
Tomer Appelbaum

A study conducted among 105 kindergartners between the ages of 4 and 6 found clear differences between their attitudes toward children with disabilities and those without, demonstrating more negative attitudes toward the disabled children. The study was conducted last year among children none of whom had classmates with disabilities.

The survey, results of which are being released now, found that Israeli kindergartners have more negative views of children with physical disabilities or with hearing problems than other peers. Conducted by Beit Issie Shapiro, a Ra’anana-based organization that provides services for children with disabilities, the survey, which was approved by the Education Ministry, found that 40 percent of those children questioned said disabled children were “bad,” compared to 24 percent who said other children were “bad.”

In addition, 23 percent expressed the view that disabled children were not sociable, compared to 12 percent when it came to other children. The survey also found that 5 percent of the children surveyed expressed a willingness to involve disabled peers in their activities, compared to 16 percent when it came to other children.

“This is the first research conducted in Israel that looks at children’s views, and it reveals that at this age, children are already forming attitudes on those with disabilities,” said Dr. Dana Roth, the director of research and evaluation at Beit Issie Shapiro.

“Our society is full of stigmas on the subject. In the research, we saw that by a large margin, children preferred a child without disabilities,“ said Heli Peretz, who was involved in conducting the study. Children preferred to associate with peers without disabilities and attributed more positive characteristics to them, she said, adding: “Nearly instinctively, all of the children preferred being with a ‘regular’ child.”

There are about 236,000 children in Israel up to age 17 with disabilities, fully 9 percent of all children, according to new data for 2015 from the Justice Ministry’s Commission of Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities. Ninety percent of the children surveyed replied that a “regular child” was a smart child, compared to just 70 percent who said children with disabilities were smart. Ninety-four percent of the children questioned expressed a desire to play with a “regular” child, compared to 78 percent who said they would like to play with a child with disabilities.

One of the children surveyed explained his views as follows, with regard to a child with disabilities: “How could I play with him? He wouldn’t hear what I was telling him.” Another child said: “Who’s not nice? The deaf boy. He can’t hear what others want and thinks just about himself.”

The survey also found that there was a clear difference between the attitudes among 4-year-olds, those in what in Israel is called “trom hova” preschool and the older children surveyed. The younger children had more positive attitudes toward children with disabilities.