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Faculty of Community Services

Kathryn Underwood




416-979-5000, ext. 2519

Email Address:


  • Inclusive curriculum, teaching and learning
  • Disability studies in education and childhood
  • Special education policy and practice
  • Early years service planning and delivery


Kathryn Underwood is a Professor in the School of Early Childhood Studies at Ryerson University. Through critical disability theory as a starting point, Dr. Underwood is interested in how society responds to and constructs childhood in social institutions. Ultimately, her research asks questions about care, social constructs, and institutions, with growing emphasis on the unnatural divide between public and private relationships. Dr. Underwood’s work has interrogated equity and disability issues in early childhood studies, family-school relationships, special education, inclusive early childhood education and care policy and practice.

My research interests are in human rights and education practice, particularly with regard to disability rights and inclusive education. The focus of my research has been on how constructions of disability in education and early childhood program contexts are used to organize children. I am particularly interested in intersectional identities of all disabled children. I have also conducted a number of studies that focus on parent viewpoints and the work of families to engage with institutions.

Research Interests:

Research Interests:

My research uses multiple methodological orientations and methods, informed by many expert collaborators. This has allowed me to match the most appropriate methods to answer critical questions in:

  • Early childhood disability studies.
  • Disability studies in education
  • Early years service system planning and evaluation
  • Equity and inclusion for young children and their families

Research projects:

Inclusive Early Childhood Service System Project
Role: Project Director

Funded by:

  • The IECSS Project is funded through a partnership between the Corporation of the County of Wellington, District of Timiskaming Social Services Administration Board, City of Hamilton, City of Toronto and Ryerson University.

This project is also funded by the following grants:

  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Grant #895-2018-1022. 
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Development Grant #890-2014-0096. 
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Knowledge Synthesis grant #872-2016-0005
  • Development of the project was funded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) grant #PIH: 132311

Current Courses:

Teaching responsibilities:

  • CLD 445: Inclusion and Consultation
  • CLD 435 Theory and Practice of Family Support
  • DST 503: Rethinking Disability in Education
  • S18: Prevention science and disability studies: Strategies, programs and monitoring (University of Zagreb)

Teaching interests:

  • Disability studies
  • Inclusive early childhood education, care and intervention
  • Curriculum theory and evaluation
  • Social justice in early childhood and education contexts
  • Family support

Selected Publications:


  • Underwood, K. (2008). The construction of disability in our schools: Teacher and Parent perspectives on the experience of labelled students. R. Slee (Ed.) Rotterdam, Netherlands: Sense.


  • Underwood, K. Church, K. & Van Rhijn, T. (2020). Responsible for Normal: The Contradictory work of Families. In S. Winton, & G. Parekh (Eds) Critical Perspectives on Education Policy and Schools, Families and Communities
  • Underwood. K. (2019). “Empathy and rubber sushi: Re-thinking Strategies for anti-oppression in early childhood education and care” (pp. 207-228). In S. Jagger (Ed.). Foundations of Early Years Education: A Canadian Perspective. Canadian Scholars Press.
  • Underwood, K. (2019). Ein systemisches Verständnis inklusiver Kindheit: Das Projekt, Inclusive Early Childhood Service System` (IECSS) (pp.314-328). In D. Jahr & R. Kruschel (Eds.), Inklusion in Kanada- Internationale Perspektiven auf heterogenitätssensible Bildung (314-328). Germany: Beltz Juventa.
  • Underwood, K. Chan, C. Koller, D. & Valeo, A. (2017). Understanding Young Children’s Capabilities: Approaches to Interviews with Young Children Experiencing Disability. In B. Kelly and B. Byrne (Eds.) Valuing Disabled Children and Young People: Research, policy, and practice. Routledge (184 pages)
  • Snoddon, K. & Underwood, K. (2017). "A social relational model of Deaf childhood in action?" In K. Runswick-Cole, T. Curran, and K. Liddiard (Eds), Handbook of Disabled Children's Childhood Studies: Building Understandings. Palgrave.
  • Frankel, E. Underwood, K., & Goldstein, M. (2017). Principles and practices of early intervention. In I. Brown & M. Percy (Eds), A comprehensive guide to intellectual and developmental disabilities (2nd ed). Baltimore, MD: Brookes.
  • Frankel, E. & Underwood, K. (2012). Early Intervention for Young Children. In I. Brown and M. Percy (Eds), Developmental Disabilities in Ontario (3rd Ed), Toronto, OADD.

Articles in refereed journals:

  • Underwood, K. Angarita Moreno, M., Curran, T., Runswick-Cole, K. & Wertlieb, D. (accepted). An international conversation on disabled children’s childhood studies: Theory, ethics, and method. Canadian Journal of Disability Studies.
  • Church, K., Vorstermans, J. & Underwood, K. (in press). Tensions in disabled childhoods: Representing trans-institutionalization. Canadian Journal of Disability Studies.
  • Underwood, K., Frankel, E, Parekh, G., & Janus, M. (2019). Transitioning work of families: Understanding trans-institutional power in early childhood programs and services. Exceptionality Education International, 29(3), 135-153. 
  • Underwood, K., Ineese-Nash, N., & Hache, A. (2019). Colonialism in early education, care, and intervention: A knowledge synthesis. Journal of childhood Studies, 44(4), 21-35.
  • Frankel, E., Chan, C., & Underwood, K. (2019). Inclusion is an experience, not a placement. ECELink, 3(1), 24-34.
  • Underwood, K., Frankel, E., Spalding, K., & Brophy, K. (2019). Is the right to early intervention being honoured? Canadian Journal of Children’s Rights.
  • Underwood, K., Smith, A., & Martin, J. (2018). Institutional mapping as a tool for resource consultation. Journal of Early Childhood Research. Available online:
  • Ineese-Nash, N., Bomberry, Y., Underwood, K., & Hache, A. (2018). Indigenous perspectives of early childhood disability service systems. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education and Society.
  • Snoddon, K. & Underwood, K. (2017) Deaf time in the twenty-first century: Considering rights frameworks and the social relational model of Deaf childhood. Disability & Society, 32(9), p. 1400-1415, doi:10.1080/09687599.2017.1320269 
  • Langford, R., Di Santo, A., Valeo, A., Underwood, K. & Lenis, A. (2017). The innovation of Ontario full day kindergarten educator teams: have they reproduced the split systems of care and education? Gender and Education
  • Underwood, K., Di Santo, A., Valeo, A., & Langford, R. (2016). Partnerships in Full Day Kindergarten classrooms: Early Childhood Educators and Kindergarten Teachers working together. Journal of Childhood Studies, 41(1), 36-45. 
  • Bancroft, R. & Underwood, K. (Summer 2015). A vision for inclusive childcare: From principles to policy. Our Schools/ Our Selves, 24(4), 95-106.
  • Valeo, A., & Underwood, K. (2015) Analysis of Special Education Tribunal Outcomes Using Luhmann’s Systems Theory. International Journal of Special Education.
  • Underwood, K. & Trent-Kratz, M. (2015). Contributions of parenting and family literacy centres in an early childhood services system. The School Community Journal, 25(1), 95-116.
  • Underwood, K., Chan, C., Koller, K. & Valeo, A. (2015). Understanding Young Children’s Capabilities: Approaches to interviews with young disabled children, Child Care in Practice. Jan. 15, 2014 
  • Snoddon, K. & Underwood. K. (2013). Toward a Social Relational Model of Deaf Childhood. Disability & Society, 29(4), 530-542. 
  • Thornton, C. & Underwood, K. (2013). Conceptualizations of Disability and Inclusion: Perspectives of Educators of Young Children. Early Years: An International Journal of Research and Development, 33(1), 59-73, Available online:
  • Underwood, K. & Killoran, I. (2012). Parent and family perspectives on engagement: Lessons from the early years. Canadian Journal of Education. 35(4), 376 -414.
  • Graham, K., & Underwood, K., (2012) The reality of rurality: Rural parents’ experiences of early years services. Health & Place, 18(6), 1231–1239.
  • Underwood, K. & Frankel, E. (2012). The Developmental Systems Approach to Early Intervention in Canada. Infants & Young Children, 25(4), 286-296.
  • Underwood, K, Valeo, A. & Wood, R. (2012). Understanding Inclusive Early Childhood Education: A Capability Approach. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 13(4) 290-299.
  • Underwood, K. (2012). Mapping the early intervention system in Ontario, Canada. International Journal of Special Education. 27(2), 125-134. Available online:
  • Underwood, K. (2012). A case study of exclusion on the basis of behaviour (and experiences of migration and racialisation). International Journal of Inclusive Education, Volume 16, Issue 3, 313-329
  • Underwood, K. (2010). Involving and Engaging parents of children with IEPs Exceptionality Education International. Accepted March 12, 2010, 25 pages.

Other articles and policy submissions (last five years):

  • Underwood, K. & Parekh, G. (in submission). Inclusive Education in Early Childhood Education: Difference, Diversity, and Social Justice. Oxford Bibliographies in Education (online). Oxford University Press.
  • Underwood, K. & Atwal, A. (2019). Young people’s analysis of disabled childhoods and research. Inclusive Early Childhood Service System project: Research Brief No. 1.
  • Snoddon, K. & Underwood, K. (2019). Analysis from young deaf people on IECSS findings. Inclusive Early Childhood Service System project: Research Brief No. 2.
  • IECSS (2017a). Policy Brief No. 7: A submission to the Canadian National Engagement on an Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Framework, July 2017 (Underwood, K. co-author)
  • IECSS (2017b). Document d’orientation No 7: Réponse à l’initiative de consultation nationale sure un Cadre d’apprentissage et de garde des jeunes enfants autochtones le 21 juillet 2017 (Underwood, K. co-author)
  • IECSS (2017c). Policy Brief No. 6: Response to the discussion paper on an Education Accessibility Standard for the AODA, February, 2017 (Underwood, K. lead author)
  • IECSS (2017d). Document d’orientation No 6: Le projet de système inclusif de services à la petite enfance (SISPE), Norme d’accessibilité en  education: Réponse au document de travail sur une norme d’accessibilité en éducation pour la LAPHO le 22 février 2017 (Underwood, K. lead author)
  • IECSS (2016a). Policy Brief No. 5: Ontario Early Years Child and Family Centres: opportunity for creation of an inclusive ECEC system, September 2016. (Underwood, K. lead author)
  • IECSS (2016b). Document d’orientation No 5: Le projet de système inclusif de services à la petite enfance (SISPE), Centres de l’Ontario pour la petite enfance et la famille : une occasion de créer un système inclusif d’éducation et de garde pour la petite enfance, septembre 2016. (Underwood, K. lead author)
  • Parekh, G., & Underwood, K. (2015). Inclusion: Creating school and classroom communities where everyone belongs. Research, tips, and tools for educators and administrators. (Research Report No.15/16‐09). Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Toronto District School Board

Professional Affiliations:

  • Visiting Scholar, Massey College, 2020
  • Alan Shepard Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Award, 2019
  • Scholarly, Research and Creative Activity Award, Faculty of Community Services, 2012

Selected Publications & Presentations:

  • Church, K., Underwood, K. and Vorstermans, J. (2018). Tensions in disabled childhoods [photo exhibit]. Toronto, Canada.

Position Currently Held:


Creative activity
Awards and honours

Contact details

Office assistant contact

  • Inclusive Early Childhood Service System Project office
  • 416-979-5000, ext. 7637

Office details

  • Office location: KHS 363-C, Kerr Hall South