Chrissie Rogers - Doing disability research: the reflexive sociologist


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The Department of Sociology's 2009 Undergraduate Lecture given by Dr. Christine Rogers from Anglia Ruskin University on 12 November 2009.

Abstract: This paper brings together research that I have carried out under the umbrella of disability research as a reflexive sociologist. It draws on my sociological PhD research, disability theory and auto/biographical research. If you are someone who is not disabled in any way, or does not know a disabled person you could ask the question ‘what has disability research got to do with me?’. However, as an undergraduate you have probably been in an education system that has promoted the ‘inclusion’ of all children to be educated together, whatever their difficulty. Via political discourse, policy directives, qualitative research and personal narratives I would like to challenge notions and provoke critical thinking around disability research. By critically engaging with mothering a disabled child, ‘inclusive’ education and sexual and intimate rights I suggest that young learning disabled people are often considered a disappointment, are excluded within an ‘inclusive’ education system and are at best discouraged from having intimate relationships, a family or an interdependent life. At worst they are socially excluded, abused and live in poverty. Here I suggest that both learning disabled people and their families are considered differently able, and whilst they might not always ‘fit’ within a socially expected norm, (to behave publically appropriate for example), they have a right to what any other young person and their family desire: a life with meaningful relationships and free from prejudice.

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  • What does this mean for education professionals?
  • Marlene (son with ADHD and possible AS ) Owen, Marlene’s oldest had been excluded from two mainstream primary schools, spent three terms in a pupil referral unit (PRU), and at the time of our second interview, was looking for a mainstream secondary school. Throughout Owen’s primary years teachers told Marlene that he was simply a badly behaved child. By the time Owen was seven years old he had seen an educational psychologist and been referred to a PRU. He was still on the mainstream school roll (register) whilst attending the PRU, but the head teacher asked him not to sit the statutory assessment tests (SATs) because, as Marlene believed ‘she didn’t want his results bringing her league table down’. Then the head teacher ‘excluded’ Owen by not wanting him back. This whole testing culture places an enormous amount of pressure on families and teachers, exacerbating the desire to withdraw or exclude the child. Some children themselves are excluded on the basis of their inability to interact with their mainstream peers. Marlene explained to me that Owen could not interact with the other children at the school, ‘because he didn’t understand the rules’ such as football, ‘and that ended up with the children turning on him’. One of these incidents resulted in Owen running to the toilets. Marlene explained what happened.
  • Chrissie Rogers - Doing disability research: the reflexive sociologist

    1. 1. Doing disability research: the reflexive sociologist Dr Chrissie Rogers, Reader in Education, Anglia Ruskin University [email_address]
    2. 2. Doing disability research: the reflexive sociologist <ul><li>My sociological beginnings </li></ul><ul><li>Beginning to research reflexively </li></ul><ul><li>Mothering a learning disabled child </li></ul><ul><li>The education process – is ‘inclusive’ education a reality? </li></ul><ul><li>Relationships and a sexual journey – Social inclusion? </li></ul>
    3. 3. <ul><li>My Sociological Beginnings... </li></ul>The Sociology Department at the University of Essex
    4. 4. <ul><li>Beginning to research reflexively </li></ul>Researching from the inside out reflexively: a continual process
    5. 5. Sparkes questions those who are critical of autoethnography, and in response asks, <ul><li>What substantive contribution to our understanding of social life does it make? What is its aesthetic merit, impact, and ability to express complex realities? Does it display reflexivity, authenticity, fidelity, and believability? Is it engaging and evocative? Does it promote dialogue and show potential for social action? Does the account work for the reader and is it useful? (2002: 211). </li></ul>
    6. 6. Hertz (1997) discusses in some depth the need for reflexivity in an attempt to shift our understanding of the data and its collection and therefore <ul><li>It is important to admit that we study things that trouble us or intrigue us, beginning from our own standpoints. But what makes writing about our lives social science and not a novel? How do we find the parallels in our experiences to make sociological sense of our own routines, or chaos for that matter? (xvi). </li></ul>
    7. 7. Five mothers and me! See the handout
    8. 8. <ul><li>Mothering a learning disabled child </li></ul><ul><li>Expectation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>the fairy tale </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Disappointment </li></ul><ul><ul><li>loss of the ‘normal’ </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Exclusion </li></ul><ul><ul><li>For the mother </li></ul></ul>
    9. 9. <ul><li>The education process – is ‘inclusive’ education a reality? </li></ul><ul><li>If I am unable to play a musical instrument at all, it seems to make little sense to say that I can be included in an orchestra which is to play Beethoven or if I cannot even add up or subtract that I should be in a group learning quadratic equations. Of course, I can just sit there alongside others but this is hardly inclusion in any serious sense. But then, it could be argued, I ought not to be ‘left out’ of these activities, however incompetent I am ( Wilson, 1999, p. 110). </li></ul>
    10. 10. As Warnock (2005, p 36) suggests, <ul><li>“ Inclusion should mean being involved in a common enterprise of learning, rather than being necessarily under the same roof”. </li></ul>
    11. 11. It seems there are many children who are ‘included’ in mainstream but are excluded at different levels: <ul><li>Practically - they are often removed from the class for one to one work in an individual teaching unit. </li></ul><ul><li>Intellectually - they often cannot access the curriculum in the same way their peers do. </li></ul><ul><li>Emotionally - their difficulties can preclude them from sustaining friendship networks and engaging with others socially. </li></ul><ul><li>These ‘exclusions’, are caused and compounded by a testing and examination structure, cultural ignorance and misunderstandings about difference and difficulty (Rogers, 2007) </li></ul>
    12. 12. <ul><li>Relationships and a sexual journey – Social inclusion? </li></ul><ul><li>If we push thoughts about inclusion further then what does it mean to be included into society? </li></ul><ul><li>What does it mean to experience social inclusion, or to feel excluded? </li></ul>
    13. 13. I would therefore suggest as social researchers we can focus <ul><li>‘ outward on the social and cultural aspects of personal experience’ and expose ‘the vulnerable self’ with a view to ‘move through, refract, and resist cultural interpretations’ (Ellis and Bochner 2003, p, 209). </li></ul>
    14. 14. And as Sparkes comments, <ul><li>‘ [m]emories serve particular personal and social functions within the stories we tell ourselves, and others, to explain who we are, what we are, and where we are in life at a particular time and place’ (2002, 157). </li></ul>
    15. 15. However, <ul><li>personal and qualitative narrative alone is not always enough in attempting to understand deeper cultural psychosocial processes. It is therefore also useful to construct knowledges that are aided by theoretical frameworks in attempting to make sense of a disabled social world. </li></ul>
    16. 16. References from quotations <ul><li>Ellis, C. and Bochner, A. (2003) ‘Autoethnography, Personal narrative, Reflexivity: Researcher as Subject’ in Denzin, N. K. and Lincoln, Y. S. (eds . ) Handbook of Qualitative Research [2 nd Edition] pp 733-768, London: Sage Publications. </li></ul><ul><li>Hertz, R. (1997) (ed.) Reflexivity and VOICE London: Sage Publications </li></ul><ul><li>Sparkes, A. C. (2002) ‘Autoethnography: Self-Indulgence or Something More? In Bochner, A. and Ellis, C. [eds.] Ethnographically Speaking: Autoethnography, Literature, and Aesthetics New York: Altamira Press </li></ul><ul><li>Warnock, M. (2005) ‘Special educational needs: a new look’ Impact (Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain) </li></ul><ul><li>Wilson, J. (1999) ‘Some conceptual difficulties about ‘inclusion’ Support for Learning 14 (3) 110-112. </li></ul>
    17. 17. Some publications <ul><li>Rogers, C. (2010) ‘ But it’s not all about the sex: mothering, normalisation and young learning disabled people’ Disability and Society 25 (1) </li></ul><ul><li>Rogers, C. (2009) (S)excerpts from a life told: Sex, gender and learning disability in Sexualities 12 (3) 270-288 </li></ul><ul><li>Rogers, C. (2007) Parenting and Inclusive Education: discovering difference, experiencing difficulty Palgrave Macmillan </li></ul><ul><li>Rogers, C. (2007) ‘Experiencing an ‘inclusive’ education: Parents and their children with special educational needs (SEN)’ British Journal of Sociology of Education 28: 1. </li></ul><ul><li>Rogers, C. (2007) ‘‘Disabling’ a family? Emotional dilemmas experienced in becoming a parent of a learning disabled child’ in British Journal of Special Education 34 (3) pp 136-143. </li></ul><ul><li>Lucey, H. and Rogers, C (2007) ‘Power and the unconscious in doctoral student-supervisor relationships’’, in, Power, Knowledge and the Academy: The Institutional Is Political Edited by V, Gillies and H, Lucey . Palgrave Macmillan </li></ul><ul><li>Rogers, C. (2003) ‘The mother/researcher in blurred boundaries of a reflexive research process’, Auto/Biography XI (1&2) pp 47-54. </li></ul>