Where are the children's experiences? Analysing social and cultural exclusion in 'special' and 'mainstream' schools

J. M. Davis, N. Watson

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123 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper we employ ethnographic data to illustrate that disabled children encounter discriminatory notions of 'normality' and 'difference' in both 'special' and 'mainstream' schools, and that these experiences relate to both the structural forces in schools, and the everyday individual and cultural practices of adults and children. In contrast to much of the literature in the field, this paper examines the everyday life experiences of adults and disabled children from their own perspective. We highlight disabled children's own criticisms of 'special' and 'mainstream' schools to illustrate the fluid nature of disabled children's lives within educational settings. We argue that schools will be prevented from becoming fully inclusive until adults who control schools take account of children's views of specific educational processes and until educational policy makers adopt a more nuanced multi-level approach to inclusion. Children should be enabled to challenge the structural, cultural and individual conditions which create disability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)671-687
Number of pages17
JournalDisability and Society
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2001


  • disabled children
  • discrimination
  • school
  • cultural practices

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