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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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8 Rethinking ‘Inclusive’ Practice: Shifting the Focus



Rethinking ‘Inclusive’ Practice

Shifting the Focus

A disillusionment with inclusion policy and ‘inclusive’ practice is widely recognised (Allan, 2010; Armstrong, Armstrong, & Spandagou, 2011; Boldt & Valente, 2014; Graham & Sweller, 2011). This dissatisfaction and concern about inclusion comes from multiple stakeholders. From teachers in the classrooms, where a child with diagnosis is viewed as a concern, an added responsibility (Macartney, 2012), and extra support is seen as crucial, but difficult to come by. Parents and caregivers are often disappointed with the ‘inclusive’ experiences of their diagnosed child, as they feel they are seen as a burden. The parents of undiagnosed children also often report concern about the presence of a diagnosed child in the classroom and the potential risk to their own child and their learning. Inclusion in education generally “appears to be in something of a sorry state, characterised by confusion, frustration, guilt and exhaustion” (Allan, 2008, p. 3).

Following this line of thinking, Warming (2011) draws attention to the idea that inclusion has occurred in quantitative terms, but in qualitative terms ‘inclusive’ practices are still challenged, as issues of equality, social justice and participation have not been addressed, nor have classrooms eliminated all forms of exclusionary assumptions and practices. How to do inclusion better, Slee (2013) argues, is not the challenge. It is instead recognising and understanding that inclusion is framed by the political predisposition of exclusion. Learning “how←191 | 192→ to detect, understand and dismantle exclusion as...

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