Disabilities and rehabilitation

WHO and UNICEF encourage discussion and action on early childhood development and disability

Despite being more vulnerable to risks which could harm their development, young children with disabilities are often overlooked in mainstream programmes and services designed to ensure child development. Early Childhood Development and Disability: A discussion paper, jointly produced by WHO and UNICEF, aims to stimulate discussion, planning and action on issues related to disability, early childhood development and related interventions.

Children with disabilities and their families are confronted by barriers including inadequate legislation, policies and services; negative attitudes; and a lack of accessible environments. If they and their families are not provided with timely and appropriate intervention, support and protection at an early stage of their development, their difficulties can become more severe - often leading to lifetime consequences, increased poverty and profound exclusion.

This discussion paper provides an overview of disability in early childhood and highlights the importance of providing opportunities during this period to ensure children with disabilities can reach their development potential and participate meaningfully in their home, schools and communities. The evidence presented underscores the urgent need to strengthen and scale up early childhood development initiatives for young children with disabilities and their families.

Essential to this effort is dialogue between governments, United Nations agencies and relevant stakeholders to identify sustainable strategies which build on existing efforts. This paper lays the foundation for a long-term strategic and collaborative process aimed at improving the developmental outcomes, participation and protection of young children with disabilities.

The discussion paper was launched on 13 September 2012 by WHO and UNICEF in New York, and served as the basis for a discussion with stakeholders held in the context of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

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