Action Research for Inclusive Education: Changing Places, Changing Practice, Changing Minds

By Felicity Armstrong; Michele Moore | Go to book overview

Chapter 8

'What about me? I live here too!'

Raising voices and changing minds through participatory research

Judith Gwynn


Overview

This chapter describes a small-scale research project that set out to obtain the insider perspectives of a group of four teenagers, all described as having 'severe learning difficulties' (SLD). It builds a picture of the social aspirations of young disabled people by placing emphasis on their inclusion in research that claims to be in their interests. The project rests on a social model approach to education and disability and is underpinned by a philosophy that recognises the value and rights of all citizens (Armstrong and Barton, 1999, p. 1), including the right to be seen (Murray, 2002, p. 70) and heard (Moore and Sixsmith, 2000, p. 145; Ward, 1996). Such a philosophy challenges the paternalism of an education system in which self-acclaimed 'experts' purport to act in particular students' best interests while their policies sustain their continued separation and marginalisation (Slee, 1999, p. 123). The project on which this chapter is based represents a commitment to raising seldom heard voices and to positioning young people with the label of 'learning difficulties' as key commentators on their experience.


Disabled teenage lives

The teenagers involved in the enquiry were 17 at the time and in my Year 12 tutor group at a 'segregated school' in the north of England. I found early on in my research journey that the social aspirations of the four young disabled people I worked with on the project had much in common with those of their non-disabled peers:

SALLY: I make new friends.

SAMANTHA: I like lager.

LENNY: I get champagne.

SARA: I meet new people.

I knew, however, that whilst there is nothing extraordinary about drinking beer, meeting friends or on special occasions imbibing the odd glass of

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