Shanon Phelan

Associate Professor

Phone: 902-494-2557
Mailing Address: 
Room 326, Forrest Building, 5869 University Avenue PO Box 15000, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3H 4R2
Research Topics:
  • Critical Disability Theory
  • Child/Youth Culture
  • Child and Family Experiences of Disability
  • Inclusion, Belonging and Loneliness
  • Inclusive Education
  • Neurodiversity and Neurodiversity Affirming Practices
  • Play and Risk Discourses
  • Gender-based Violence and Rehabilitation
  • Critical Reflexivity and Ethics
  • Qualitative Research Methodologies and Methods


  • Post-doctoral Fellowship- Childhood Disability- Bloorview Research Institute, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital
  • PhD- Health and Rehabilitation Sciences- Western University
  • MSc- Occupational Therapy- Western University
  • BSc Human Kinetics- University of Guelph

Appointments & Affiliations

  • Cross Appointment, Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University
  • Affiliate Scientist, IWK Health Centre, Department of Pediatrics, Rehabilitation Medicine, Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • Associate Scientist, Maritime SPOR SUPPORT Unit (MSSU)
  • Scholar, Healthy Populations Institute, Dalhousie University

Research Interests

Dr. Shanon Phelan (she/her) is a critical qualitative researcher whose program of research focuses on understanding and improving opportunities for inclusion, belonging, and agency for children and young people who experience disability and their families. This program is informed by clinical experience working with children and families experiencing disability in schools and communities, and a trajectory of research in childhood disability. Within her program, she has four main research streams: 1) Reimagining Inclusion and Belonging in Child and Youth (-driven) Culture; 2) Reimagining Inclusion and Belonging in Early Childhood, Childhood, Education and Childcare; 3) Reimagining Inclusion and Belonging in/with Families, Communities and Collectives; and 4) Reimagining Disability-Inclusive and Neurodiversity-Affirming Supports and Services. Dr. Phelan draws heavily on critical disability theory, the neurodiversity paradigm, intersectional and feminist approaches to illuminate inequities and injustices experienced by disability, neurodivergent and neurominority communities.

Current Research Initiatives

Equitable access to inclusive early learning and childcare for disabled children: The family experience (SSHRC Insight Development Grant, PI: Phelan, S., Co-I’s: McConnell, D., Moore, S., McIsaac, J.L., Mah, C.)

Promoting health and well-being of children experiencing disability through inclusion in early learning and childcare
(Faculty of Health Research Development Grant, PI: Phelan, S., Co-I’s: McConnell, D., Moore, S., McIsaac, J.L., Sheriko, J.)

Promoting health and well-being of children experiencing disability through inclusion in child culture
(Research Nova Scotia New Health Investigator Grant, PI: Phelan, S., Co-I’s: Aston, M., Egilson, S., Sheriko, J., Spencer, N., McConnell, D.)

From stories to praxis: Transforming community-based support services for women with disabilities who have survived intimate partner violence
(SSHRC Partnership Development Grant, PI’s: McConnell, D., Pacheco, L., Co-I’s: Aunos, M., Phelan, S.)

Looking for love in the rocky mountains: Stories of inclusion (SSHRC Partnership Engage Grant, PI: Spencer, N., Co-I: Phelan, S.)

Selected Publications

*Harasym, J., Gross, D., MacLeod, A. A. N., & Phelan, S.K. (2024). "This is a Look into My Life”: Enhancing Qualitative Inquiry into Communication through Arts-Based Research Methods [Special Issue: Accessibility and Inclusion: Advancing the Use of Qualitative Research Methods for All]. International Journal of Qualitative Research Methods, 23, 1-16. doi: 10.1177/16094069241232603.

*Reeves, P., McConnell, D., & Phelan, S.K. (2023). The (radical) role of belonging in shifting & expanding understandings of social inclusion for people labelled with intellectual or developmental disability. Sociology of Health & Illness, 45(2), 317-330. doi: 10.1111/1467-9566.13574.

McConnell, D., & Phelan, S.K. (2022). Intimate partner violence against women with intellectual disability: An anti-oppressive, trauma informed response. Health & Social Care in the Community, 30(6), e5156-e5166. doi: 10.1111/hsc.13932.

McConnell, D., & Phelan, S.K. (2022). The devolution of eugenic practices: Sexual and reproductive oppression of people with ascribed intellectual disability. Social Science & Medicine, 298, 1-8. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2022.114877.

Phelan, S.K., & *Reeves, P. (2022). (Re)Imagining inclusion in ways that foster belonging in the lives of disabled children and youth. The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, 6(2), 77-78. doi: 10.1016/S2352-4642(21)00371-0.

*Reeves, P., Ng, S., *Harris, M., & Phelan, S.K. (2022). The exclusionary effects of inclusion today: (Re)production of disability in inclusive education settings. Disability & Society, 37(4), 612-637. doi: 10.1080/09687599.2020.1828042.

Graduate Training Opportunities

Dr. Shanon Phelan directs the SHIFT Collective: Shifting how we think about inclusion For tomorrow. The SHIFT collective is a group of researchers, graduate students, and trainees who are deeply committed to the inclusion, belonging, health and well-being of people who experience disability. Dr. Phelan is accepting Postdoctoral trainees, PhD and MSc(OS) students interested in qualitative research at the intersections of child culture, disability, inclusion and belonging; child, adolescent and family experiences of disability and inclusion; neurodiversity, inclusion and belonging; neurodiversity-affirming practices; disability, neurodivergence and gender; disability, neurodivergence and gender-based violence; and critical disability studies. Potential students are invited to explore current and past projects and opportunities posted on the SHIFT Collective website.