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Title: Disability and challenging behaviour in schools : the necessity for a culpability model of disability
Authors: Watson, Tania Katrina
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This research contributes to the field of disability studies, and that of education, by challenging the continued practice of holding accountable persons with a neurodevelopmental disability for the behavioural manifestations of that disability. This is a tendency found inadequately explained by either established or emergent models of disability. This study also identifies that in the wider field there is limited parental narrative available to offer an embodied perspective of the implications of neurodevelopmental disability, nor the childhoods these produce. This is considered a primary barrier toward understanding the reality of challenging childhood and the scope of disability accountability in the UK. Neurodevelopmental disabilities have expanded both in range and prevalence throughout the previous four decades, they now affect 3-4% of all children. Disproportionate tendency to accord blame within this population is revealed by both the reasons cited for official school exclusions and the population most vulnerable to exclusionary sanction. Differentiation is made in this thesis between blame and accountability, as it is contended that whilst all persons with a behavioural impairment are accountable in principle for the manifestations of their disability, blame per se, refers to specific individual acts and is impacted upon by wider social indices. This thesis introduces the term ‘challenging childhoods’, and refers to childhoods which exceed the normal excesses of childhood, typically witnessed during key developmental miles stones (for example adolescence). Rather this thesis privileges childhoods which through disability, defy control, and are as a result overwhelming, both for schools and for parents. Throughout this thesis I refer to discrete diagnostic classifications as medical labels, this is a strategic term which acknowledges that disability classifications are contested as is the medical model to which they are aligned. This thesis offers an original contribution to knowledge through the development of a Culpability Model of Disability. This model highlights the vulnerability to accountability referenced above, and charts the juncture where physical and psychological disabilities digress. This is termed the twin pathways of attribution ii and charts how persons with physical disabilities are protected from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010, whilst for those with psychological disabilities, these rights are qualified in law. The primary reason identified for this digression is based upon potential or actual impact on others, and this is cited to be key to the disavowal of equality rights. Two incompatible responsibilities are identified in the school context, serving to exacerbate accountability tendencies. These are a need to maintain and improve standards, through summative output, alongside also the need to be inclusive as demanded legislatively. The Culpability Model posits it to be the resolution of these tensions which is fundamental to both accountability and to exclusionary response. This research, inspired by my own parenting experience and research output from a prior study, adopts an analytical autoethnographic approach to interrogate the nature of disability challenge and accountability in the UK school context. Three areas of challenge were highlighted through experience, firstly the medical legitimacy accorded to a disability classification, secondly, perceptions around the accuracy of diagnosis and finally accountability for the behavioural effects of a disability which are considered medically to be diagnostic criteria. Using qualitative methods, the study engaged three main groups, teachers, SENCOs and families. Methods included self-complete diamond ranking exercises and guided face to face and free narrative interviews. Further data was generated from two longitudinal volunteering placements in the special sector, alongside individual interviews with Baroness Warnock and Leslie Henderson, founder of a North East autism charity. Blame emerges as a pervasive theme and is revealed through ongoing causational discourses, framed around a nature versus nurture distinction. I concluded that psychological disabilities are stimulating of punitive responses when ‘behaviour’ is an issue, alongside an increased tendency to confer personal and familial blame. This thesis concludes that accountability and disposition to accord blame are illogical under the tenets of a medical understanding of disability, and as such are considered to be discriminatory.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences

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