CLASSIFICATION FOR CHILDREN
Deborah L. Speece University of Maryland at College Park
Beth Harry University of Miami
In this chapter we examine how disability classifications are constructed from the perspectives of society and science. The social and scientific approaches to the construction of disability are not often considered simultaneously, but we believe these perspectives make more understandable the systems used to classify children. We seek to understand the contributions of these approaches to the education of children. The latter point, educating children, is central to our concern in this chapter. That is, the educational and scientific communities often discuss classification of children. We propose that another, perhaps more appropriate, emphasis is classification for children. This distinction provides a different window from which to view and evaluate classification systems. When classification activities are reified without reference to the original purpose of educating children, it is time to revisit the basis of the system.
The notion that disability is socially constructed is not new ( Becker, 1969; Goffman, 1963). The process of social construction means that members of a society identify a point at which an unusual pattern of behavior is seen to be deviant, or beyond acceptable boundaries. Thus, the concept of disability represents a decision made by the society regarding a form of physical or mental deviance, usually thought to be caused by some deficit within the