Childhood embodiment : an ethnography of SEN provision.
This thesis explores the experiences of a group of children with a range of special educational needs within two mainstream schools, using a variety of ethnographic methods. The thesis is sited within the relatively new paradigm of the social study of childhood, which acknowledges children as competent social actors. It explores children's capacity for agency within the structural space of the school, and rejects the notion of the disabled child as passive and dependent. Children's own views are discussed, and the thesis demonstrates how they make sense of concepts such as 'difference' and 'disability', noting how children are influenced by factors such as the primacy of the body in consumer culture and wider social attitudes to disability. Central to the thesis, however, is the crucial nature of the body in adult-child and child-child interaction. Within schools, children are 'civilised' and controlled through the medium of the body and, similarly, children draw upon the body as a means of resistance. During social interaction, all children use the body as a signifier of the social self, as a symbolic resource for playing jokes upon their peers, to evidence changes in status, and to highlight aspects of the 'non-standard' body. They also use aspects of bodily difference to wound and taunt. Whilst all children are subject to these onslaughts upon bodily identity, it is those with special educational needs, whose bodies may appear or behave differently, who are potentially more susceptible to their effect. However, the thesis shows that the experiences of children with special educational needs were not necessarily mediated through those needs, but through particular social skills such as empathy or humour. This thesis demonstrates therefore the manner in which the quality of experience for all children, but specifically those with special educational needs, is mediated through their expertise in particular skills of embodiment.