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Wellbeing for children with a disability in New Zealand: A search for meaning by Maree Kirk

This thesis explores the meaning of wellbeing for children with a disability in New Zealand, an area of social policy that has been largely unexamined. Focusing on the school environment, three questions are addressed: What does wellbeing mean for children with a disability? What factors influence it? Are current policy frameworks which address child wellbeing relevant to the wellbeing of children with a disability? The research involved qualitative data collection from nine purposively selected participants: children with a disability, their parents and key informants involved in service provision and policy development. A critical review of international and national literature on definitions of wellbeing and disability, and on existing data sources, is followed by a socio-demographic profile of children with a disability in New Zealand. Qualitative findings are interpreted in relation to current New Zealand social policy initiatives and frameworks - New Zealand's Agenda for Children, the Whole Child Approach and the Key Settings Model - as well as the theoretical perspectives of social solidarity, wellbeing, the ecological theory of human development and discourses of disability. Findings indicate that the concept of wellbeing as applied to all New Zealand children is also relevant to children with a disability. The difference however, lies in the factors which ultimately influence whether the various dimensions of wellbeing will actually be experienced by children with a disability. For these children, communication as a dimension of wellbeing for example, is influenced by language skill acquisition, which in turn depends upon allocation of appropriate and adequate resourcing of the child's learning environment. The conclusion drawn is that policy frameworks, principles and social indicators addressing child wellbeing, are inconsistently applied with regard to children with a disability. New Zealand's Agenda for Children which promotes an ecological approach to child wellbeing would benefit from further adaptation to reflect the needs of this specific child population. The notion of wellbeing for children with a disability needs further development for the purpose of knowledge building, and to ensure clearer articulation between processes of policy development, service provision, and resource allocation.
Type of thesis
Kirk, M. L. (2006). Wellbeing for children with a disability in New Zealand: A search for meaning by Maree Kirk (Thesis, Master of Social Sciences (MSocSc)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2416
The University of Waikato
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