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The 'F-words' for Child Development

September 20, 2022


In 2011, Dr. Peter Rosenbaum and Dr. J.W. Gorter, both of the CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research at McMaster University,  published a paper titled: The 'F-words' in Childhood Disability: I swear this is how we should think! Inspired by over two decades of CanChild research and continual discussion amongst members of the CanChild family, the paper features six F-words that the authors state should be the focus in childhood disability - Functioning, Family, Fitness, Fun, Friends, and Future

The F-words focus on six key areas of child development. Recognizing that no one factor is more important than another, the hope is to encourage people in the childhood disability field to adopt this way of thinking and apply these concepts in their work with children with disabilities and their families. At JMCC, we are embracing the F-Words concept and applying them to all services for children and youth. 

The F-words promote strength-based, family-centred, and holistic concepts.

  • A strength-based approach celebrates the ‘can do’ aspects of children’s lives rather than the ‘cannot’. Concerns and challenges are addressed, but children, youth, families, and service providers focus on positives and what is working well.
  • A family-centred focus recognizes the needs and perspectives of families, who are the ‘essential environment’ of all children.
  • A holistic approach to child development and wellbeing emphasizes the importance of looking at the full picture of a child and family. All areas of the ICF/F-words frameworks and the connections among them influence health and functioning.
  • The F-words language and concepts can be applied across all stages in a child’s/youth’s development.
As families and therapists begin to use the F-Words in conversations, everyone's goals become much clearer. The following resources, including videos and testimonials, will help you better understand these words and this concept as we adopt them into conversations.


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