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Inside the 'Inclusive' Early Childhood Classroom

The Power of the 'Normal'


Karen Watson

Inside the Inclusive Childhood Classroom: The Power of the Normal’ offers a critique of current practices and alternative view of inclusion. The rich data created inside three classrooms will challenge those who work in the field, as the children and their performances, previously overlooked, are foreground. Although at times confronting, it is ultimately invaluable reading for classroom teachers, students, academics, and researchers as well as anyone who desires to deepen their understanding of inclusive processes. The inclusion of children with diagnosed special needs in mainstream early childhood classrooms is a policy and practice that has gained universal support in recent decades. Exploring ways to include the diagnosed child has been of interest to inclusive research. Adopting a poststructural perspective, this book interrupts taken for granted assumptions about inclusive processes in the classroom. Attention is drawn to the role played by the undiagnosed children, those positioned as already included. Researching among children, this ethnography interrogates the production of the classroom ‘normal’. As the children negotiate difference, the operations of the ‘normal’ are made visible in their words and actions. In their encounters with the diagnosed Other, they take up practices of tolerance and silence, effecting fear, separation, and a desire to cure. These performances echo practices, presumed abandoned, from centuries past. As a way forward this book urges a rethink of practice-as-usual, as these effects are problematic for inclusion and not sustainable. A greater scrutiny of the ‘normal’ is needed, as the power it exercises, impacts on all children and how they become subjects in the classroom.

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Introduction: Questioning My ‘Truth’ about Inclusion



Questioning My ‘Truth’ about Inclusion

The Story of David

In 1999, I took up a position as a teacher in an early intervention service, in a rural town, in New South Wales, Australia. The service, like many others, provided assessment, referral, multidisciplinary networking, therapy sessions and transition to mainstream services, for children with a medical or psychological diagnosis, or an assessed developmental delay. With the knowledge from my newly acquired Masters of Special Education, I was considered ‘qualified’ to identify and classify disability, make an assessment (not a diagnosis, as this was, and is, the prerogative of the medical professional) of the child, and program for appropriate remediation and therapy. As a mainstream teacher, I had been robustly informed by scientific knowledge and the ‘truth’ of child development. With a Masters degree, I now had the special education knowledge of the medical, psychological and behavioural sciences. I positioned myself, within these discourses, as someone who could assist a child with any diagnosis, and support the family in understanding their child’s diagnostic characteristics. Giving support to those in need of help was an expected practice for a teacher in my position. Managing a new diagnosis in early intervention required sensitivity and sympathy, and as a teacher I needed and wanted to show empathy for the family and for their diagnosed child.←1 | 2→

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