Inclusion of children with disabilities in qualitative health research: A scoping review

Janet Njelesani, Vongai Mlambo, Tsedenia Denekew, Jean Hunleth

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background Children with disabilities have the right to participate in health research so their priorities, needs, and experiences are included. Health research based primarily on adult report risks misrepresenting children with disabilities and their needs, and contributes to exclusion and a lack of diversity in the experiences being captured. Prioritizing the participation of children with disabilities enhances the relevance, meaningfulness, and impact of research. Methods A scoping review was conducted to critically examine the participation of children with disabilities in qualitative health research. The electronic databases PubMed, PsychInfo, Embase, and Google Scholar were searched. Inclusion criteria included qualitative health studies conducted with children with disabilities, published between 2007 and 2020, and written in English. Articles were screened by two reviewers and the synthesis of data was performed using numeric and content analysis. Results A total of 62 studies met inclusion criteria. Rationales for including children with disabilities included child-focused, medical model of disability, and disability rights rationales. Participation of children with disabilities in qualitative health research was limited, with the majority of studies conducting research on rather than in partnership with or by children. Findings emphasize that children with disabilities are not participating in the design and implementation of health research. Conclusion Further effort should be made by health researchers to incorporate children with a broad range of impairments drawing on theory and methodology from disability and childhood studies and collaborating with people who have expertise in these areas. Furthermore, an array of multi-method inclusive, accessible, adaptable, and non-ableist methods should be available to enable different ways of expression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0273784
JournalPloS one
Issue number9 September
StatePublished - Sep 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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