Experiencing 'Special' Education: Parenting Children with Learning Difficulties
Christine A. Rogers.
How do parents negotiate the process of educating their child or children who have some form of learning difficulty, commonly referred to as special educational needs (SEN) in England? To parent a child with SEN, whether the difficulties are apparent at birth, or discovered later, can have a dramatic effect on the parents and extended family. Contradictions inherent in education policy and provision and in discourses of ‘inclusion’ often result in parents of children with SEN having difficulties in negotiating the ‘official’ process. Specific professionals carry out the identification and assessment of a child’s difficulties in an attempt to provide the most appropriate education. With regard to educational policy in England and Wales (UK) a child is to be ‘included’ in mainstream school where possible. On a practical level this may not be possible, or the desired option of the parents, the school, or local education authority. These tensions often exacerbate an already difficult process. Looking at both qualitative narratives of twenty-four parents who have thirty-one children with SEN and SEN policy and directives even in a discourse on ‘partnership’ parents are only a small part in the ‘official’ special education process. However their stories illuminate how intrinsically important the parental role and cultural expectations are in the working of that process and how parents experience this.
Christine A. Rogers (United Kingdom)
Department of Sociology
University of Essex England
Currently studying for her ESRC funded doctorate on ‘Parenting children with special educational needs' in the Sociology department at the University of Essex. She has a forthcoming journal article in Auto/biography: ‘The mother/researcher in blurred boundaries of a reflexive research process’ and two book reviews in Support for Learning and Sociology of Health and Illness respectively. After Christine studied for her BA and MA in Sociology she worked as a support worker for adults with severe learning disabilities. She also has a teenage daughter with learning difficulties who has recently gone to a residential college.
(30 min Conference Paper, English)