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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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7 Fear, Separation and Asylum-Like Practices



Fear, Separation and Asylum-Like Practices

Fear of ‘Disability’—The Embodied Abject

Oliver (a child with a diagnosis) is lying on his back on a mat in the yard. A younger child George (without a diagnosis) from the other classroom sits next to him with me and his teacher. He stares at Oliver as if he has not seen him before, his eyes wide and his body pensive and uneasy. He is closely watching Oliver’s every move. The teacher comments that Oliver has kicked off his socks and while putting them on remarks in a playful way that Oliver’s feet are very cold. She says to George, “Feel his toes, they are so cold”. George shakes his head, and with a look of shock, moves his body further away. (Field Notes, 15/6/12, S1, p. 152)

George does not wish to touch Oliver’s feet. He sits and stares at Oliver for a short time looking somewhat apprehensive. Oliver is positioned as the anomaly in the classroom and the ‘abject’ (Davies, 2006) in this encounter. Young (1990), following Kristeva (1982), posits that abjection brings about feelings of aversion and animosity, while at the same time, the abject is seen as fascinating, it draws the subject in, in order to repel it (Young, 1990). The separated self that abjection creates, needs to keep the border firm for fear of disintegration. Young (1990) writes, “The abject must not touch me for fear that it will ooze...

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