[READING NOTES] Conceptual Issues in Childhood and Disability
Integrating theories from childhood and disability studies
First, the paper exposes how children with disability were understood and conceptualized since the middle of the XXth century. Following Piaget's work on children's development in the 1970's and a psychological conception of children as passive in the 1950's, the medical and behaviorist model of disability prevailed. Born in the sixty's, the disability rights movement led to the birth of disability studies in the 1980's. In the 1990's, disability studies scholars challenged this essentialist point of view and developed the social model of disability, which still tend to impose a normative adult categorization of their experience. But the social model also reached its limits, as it mostly considered children as purely "subaltern", negating their diversity and cultures. The author also identifies 3 post-modernists social models of disability, taking into account children's agency and culture, with a tendency of reducing the structural issues. He proposes an affirmative approach to disability.
Four ways of treatment/assessment by professionals
- "individualized approaches that highlighted the individual child’s pathology and judged children against normative criteria related to developmental age and stage;
- ecological approaches that considered the social context outside of the individual child (e.g., friends, school, neighbours, local services, national culture, government and the media) but rarely questioned the politics of the professional role;
- multi-agency approaches that aimed to ensure that no one professional solely defined children’s problems/solutions;
- and politically nuanced holistic models that challenged hierarchies (e.g., the assumption that the medical professional knows best) and recognized that service users are the experts on their own lives."
About the affirmative model
- "challenges perspectives which identify problems with impairments by asserting value and validity to impairment;
- celebrates difference;
- and recognizes disabled people’s right to have control of what is done to their bodies."
About children's self-concept
Several studies have pointed out that children living with impairments had low self-esteem/concept. However, the author points out children have various ways to confront and challenge the negative stereotype and views imposing on them.
Post-modernism account of disability
- "Radical postmodernism (considers truth to be contested, there to be various perspectives on a social event and social life to be ambiguous);
- Psychoanalytical approaches (highlight the diverse and fragmented nature of identity, conflict concerning legitimate behaviour and the contradictory nature of people’s lives and thoughts);
- Performativity (stresses the expressive nature of identity, the ability of people to adopt or ‘perform’ different roles in various contexts and the opportunity for people to interpret reality and construct identities through social practice rather than genetics)."
"We can conclude from postmodern accounts in both childhood and disability studies that we need to examine further the oppressive barriers that both children and adults encounter in social spaces and that we cannot understand disabled children’s lives in isolation from the adults that they interact with. We can also conclude that we should not assume (as academics) that any approach to disabled children’s lives is superior to another."