This Economic and Social Research Council funded project investigates the links between children and young people’s friendships and social relationships, (dis)ability and inclusion and exclusion. The research has examined how everyday practices of young people in school, home and leisure spaces reproduce disability as a variously valued or devalued identity position. We have been particularly interested in how such practices are connected to broader patterns of social exclusion and inclusion (conceptualised through the idea of social capital). The starting point for the research is that identities are not natural or given, but are rather (re)produced through everyday practices.
The context for this research is the change in the geography of disabled children’s education, which has changed towards ‘inclusive education’ over the past decades. Rather than being educated in segregated special schools, increasing numbers of disabled children are educated in mainstream schools. The policy and practice of this inclusion agenda are based on the assumption that the co-presence of (dis)abled children will transform dominant, devalued representations of disability among children currently, and in wider society in the future.
Critical accounts have questioned the extent to which the inclusion agenda promotes disabled children’s long term social inclusion. However these tend to focus on adults’ perceptions of the benefits and problems of inclusion. The purpose of this research was to focus on children’s experiences, and to assess how far the everyday practices and social interactions of young people promote greater social inclusion of those with various types of disabilities.