A principle that promotes providing services for individuals with developmental disorders (e.g., autism spectrum disorders, or ASDs) and learning disorders in order to ensure their access to environments and experiences as similar as possible to those available to typically developing individuals. Nirje (1980) defined normalization as making “the regular circumstances and ways of life or society” (p. 33) available to individuals with learning difficulties.
When first adopted, normalization was instrumental in reducing the frequently inhumane institutionalization of these individuals and providing both community-based and other alternative services. The normalization movement began in the 1960s and 1970s in Scandinavia, with other European countries and the United States following. Initially, normalization served as a philosophical foundation for reorganizing the provision of services for individuals with developmental delays (Rehm and Bradley 2005). Following the normalization-inspired deinstitutionalization movement, some interventionists and researchers have contended that normalization is not the ideal approach to current interventions for ASDs and have argued instead for the necessity of a more individual-focused and strength-based philosophy (e.g., Mesibov 1990). However, normalization has continued to be an overarching philosophy in approaches to treatment for ASDs and other developmental disabilities.
Normalization reflects the need for individuals with ASDs and other disabilities to have access to equality, quality of life, and human rights (Renzaglia et al. 2003). This concept serves as an ideological framework for inclusion, a principle emphasizing the need for programs to support integration of individuals in schools, neighborhoods, and communities, regardless of disability status. The Americans with Disabilities Act and similar laws in other countries, which prohibit discrimination against individuals based on disability, are also consistent with normalization.
In theory, normalization is designed to be applied along a continuum of disability, with various levels of inclusion possible, depending on the level of impairment. Because of the difficulty of conducting randomized controlled studies of normalization practice, current evidence on the outcomes of inclusion practices in schools is preliminary (Ferraioli and Harris 2011). Inclusion of children with ASDs who have not received early intensive behavioral intervention or who have not made significant treatment gains is not supported, but inclusion for children who have made these gains can more often be feasible and successful (Ferraioli and Harris 2011).
References and Reading
- Nirje, B. (1980). The normalization principle. In R. J. Flynn & K. E. Nitsch (Eds.), Normalization, social integration, and community services (pp. 31–50). Baltimore: University Park Press.Google Scholar
- Rehm, R. S., & Bradley, J. F. (2005). Normalization in families raising a child who is medically fragile/technology dependent and developmentally delayed. Qualitative Research, 15, 807–820.Google Scholar