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Title: Hidden biographies : dyslexia, disability and social class
Author: Macdonald, Stephen James
Awarding Body: Newcastle University
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2007
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The aim of this thesis is to establish a sociological understanding of dyslexia within adulthood. The research explores the effects dyslexia has on the life course of individuals within an educational and employment context. The thesis commences by examining both the historical and the contemporary medical and educational literature on dyslexia. This is in order to develop a general understanding from existing research of dyslexia as a label. A feature of this study is that it draws from literature within disability studies rather than employing the psycho-educational approach that dominates contemporary research. The study has placed dyslexia within the field of disability studies in an attempt to understand how this syndrome can be interpreted through the concept of disabling barriers, and has developed a critical realist perspective to broaden this understanding. As a result, the research has further developed the debate in relation to the medical and social model ideologies which are represented within disability studies. This approach has enabled a contribution to be made to current debates surrounding definitions of dyslexia within disability studies. In order to explore dyslexia within the field of disability studies, as well as include the voices of dyslexic adults, the thesis employs a biographical narrative approach. This study primarily used a quantitative questionnaire method to locate dyslexic participants within four distinct populations, chosen through a theoretical sampling frame. However, the majority of the data was collected by using a qualitative biographical approach, which explored the experiences of 13 dyslexic participants selected via analysis of the quantitative data. These participants were selected according to a number of social variables including socio-economic positioning, age and gender to maximise a diverse range of experiences and approaches to living with dyslexia. The study discovered that disabling barriers were intensified by an individual's socio-economic status. By using a social class analysis, the research illustrates how dyslexia and social class affect both educational and employment possibilities within the participant's life course. The thesis concludes by discussing the importance of identifying and supporting people with dyslexia within education and employment. By acknowledging that dyslexia is affected by issues of socio-economic status, the research has broadened the debate in relation to labelling individuals within education. The study has developed a pro-labelling approach based on evidence from the social and educational perspectives in order to represent the voices of participants within this study. However, the research findings do not suggest that dyslexia is a social construct, but rather, the experience of dyslexia is produced through an interaction between the social and the biological embodied self. As a result of developing this pro-labelling approach, the research illustrates how socio-economic positioning, combined with issues related to dyslexia, restricts access to education and employment provisions. This develops into a discussion on how dyslexia is not just an educational issue but also has major ramifications within adult life. In order to overcome the negative aspects of dyslexia, the study suggests that by using a disability rights perspective the dyslexic community can positively transform social attitudes as well as enhance the status of a dyslexic identity. This will allow individuals access to vital technological support as well as allowing them to confront disabling barriers within society.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available