Developing a Critical Disability Studies Approach to "Inclusive" Early Childhood Education: A Participatory Action Research Project Public Deposited

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  • March 2, 2021
  • Eilers, Nicole
    • Affiliation: School of Education
  • The term “inclusion,” which once primarily referred to the placement of children with disabilities in the general education classroom, has shifted to focus on ensuring that all children are able to access and participate in the physical, social, and academic environment of the classroom. Despite this broader aim, children with disabilities and children from historically marginalized backgrounds continue to experience exclusion inside the inclusive classroom (Annamma et al., 2016; Ferri & Connor, 2016; Losen & Orfield, 2002; Watson, 2017). The field of critical disability studies (CDS) offers a framework for understanding how disablism and ableism function within the classroom, providing an opportunity to challenge normative discourses and practices. However, the field of CDS has not yet made a significant impact on the field of education (Cosier & Person, 2016). This is particularly the case for the field of early childhood inclusive education due to pervasive beliefs that young children are not capable of engaging in conversations about complex social issues (Robinson & Jones Díaz, 2006). At the same time, the field of CDS is critiqued for lacking in practical application (Oliver & Barnes, 2012), indicating a need to demonstrate what CDS has to offer to the field of early childhood education. This dissertation describes a participatory action research project in which one multilingual, early childhood inclusive classroom community in France explored what it might mean to take a CDS approach to inclusion. The classroom community discovered the disruptive possibilities offered by dis/ability, an exploration made all the more relevant as the community navigated unanticipated external events including France’s longest transportation strike in 20 years, and the COVID-19 pandemic. These disruptions ultimately provided the classroom with opportunities to identify the impact of ableism in making disabling practices appear normal, and to develop a critical sense of “normalcy,” an approach through which the “normal” may be challenged, allowing the possibilities and potentialities of dis/ability to emerge. Implications for how the field of CDS might open up new possibilities within early childhood “inclusive” education are discussed.
Date of publication
Resource type
  • Trier, James
  • LaGarry, Alison
  • Rong, Xue
  • Glazier, Jocelyn
  • Mason Bolick, Cheryl
  • Doctor of Education
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2020

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