Canada Research Chair in School Readiness, Inclusion of Vulnerable Populations, and Social Adjustment

Chair Holder : Gabrielle Garon-Carrier

Starting school is an important step for all children. While this transition goes smoothly for most, it can be an adjustment challenge and have lasting negative consequences for children with school readiness vulnerabilities. Current scientific knowledge about school readiness leads to two important conclusions. First, in order to make a tangible contribution to the advancement of knowledge and well-being of vulnerable children in terms of school readiness, it is important to have a more nuanced and articulated understanding of children’s profiles and how their school readiness progresses. School readiness is a multidimensional concept and should consider, not only a child’s characteristics, but also, those of the parents, in addition to factors in the family environment, child care services and the school environment. Understanding how children with diverse profiles adapt to their early social and academic experiences is essential to providing them with the tools and support necessary for their well-being and subsequent adjustment. It is also essential to better understand how, once in elementary school, social programs and professional services that support teachers, families and vulnerable children in their school readiness support these children’s development. The results of current empirical studies indicate that the effects of intervention programs to improve children’s school readiness tend to fade by the time they enter elementary school. This may be because additional support for these children is needed once in elementary school. It may also be that teachers face additional challenges in implementing inclusive education for these children. By considering the services available to vulnerable children with various school readiness profiles, we can go beyond the provision of educational and community services as a whole, to specifically identify the type of services (or combination of services) that vulnerable children benefit from most.

Axis 1: Longitudinal profiles of school readiness and subsequent development
Research in this area aims to: 1.1) better understand children with diverse longitudinal patterns of school readiness by detailing multifactorial and multilevel (individual, family, community) characteristics of children to better predict the adjustment problems most likely to occur, and 1.2) determine whether these diverse patterns lead to persistent and chronic, or transient, adjustment difficulties over their lifetimes.

Axis 2: School readiness among so-called vulnerable populations and service utilization
Boys and girls with school readiness vulnerabilities (limitations in cognitive, emotional, physical, language and social domains) are at risk for social and academic adjustment upon entering school. Research in this area thus aims to better understand how educational services can be most beneficial to these children by: 2.1.) identifying the factors that distinguish vulnerable children who receive services from those who do not, in terms of child characteristics, family characteristics, but also school and community characteristics; 2.2.) examining the effect of these services on school readiness, and social and academic adjustment of children in a vulnerable context.

Axis 3: Inclusion of children with social and academic adjustment challenges
Children with academic, emotional and behavioral difficulties are less socially accepted by their classmates and are at greater risk of bullying and social exclusion. To help schools and educational policies identify impediments to inclusion and acceptance of others, and adequately address them, it is necessary to first: 3.1) explore how parents, teachers, and peers perceive children with academic and social challenges who are in “inclusive” classroom settings; 3.2) examine how this translates into achievement, behaviors, and well-being of these children.