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Sharon Hope Irwin

Dr. Sharon Hope Irwin, executive director and senior researcher for SpeciaLink: The National Centre for Early Childhood Inclusion, has spent most of her professional career in the non-profit sector, with a focus on including children with disabilities in child care and other community programs. In addition to working as a frontline child care director in a pioneering inclusive child care centre, she has facilitated numerous workshops and conference presentations in all provinces and two territories and several other countries, on issues related to disability, inclusion and child care.


For the past 20 years, her work has focused on the development and dissemination of an instrument to measure inclusion in child care — The SpeciaLink Inclusion Quality Scale. As part of this work, she consulted with government officials in all provinces, as well as with researchers, trainers, agency heads, directors and early childhood educators. She has trained over 3000 related professionals in the use of the SpeciaLink tool.  Her current work, in collaboration with Dr. Donna S. Lero,  “Assessing Inclusion Quality in Early Learning and Child Care Services” will identify and quantify gaps in inclusion quality of ELCC for children with disabilities, and compare quality of ELCC services to children with disabilities with service to typical children in ELCC.


In addition to The SpeciaLink Inclusion Quality Scale, Sharon has authored or co-authored 8 books and 2 DVDs related to inclusion in child care, as well as numerous articles and numerous reports for provincial and federal governments.


Sharon holds a doctorate in education and an honorary doctorate of laws in social policy from the University of Winnipeg, as well as an appointment to the Order of Nova Scotia.

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