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Unit information: Disabled Childhoods in 2016/17

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Unit name Disabled Childhoods
Unit code SPOLM0050
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Dowling
Open unit status Open

Part-time route: Successful completion of at least one mandatory unit (SPOLM0013 or ACHSM0001) or an equivalent unit in social science research methods.

Full-time route: Successful completion of two mandatory units from the following: SPOLM0013, ACHSM0001, SPOLM0014 and SPOLM0015.



School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

Disabled Childhoods is a growing area of interest within Disability Studies. It takes as a point of departure that disabled children are children first and their emotional, social and educational development is predicated on the experience of childhood, as with any child, but is also filtered through a prism of disabling contexts over which they have limited control. The purpose of this optional unit is to introduce, explore and reflect on notions of ‘disability’ as they apply to childhoods. The varying contexts explored will include the social world of disabled children, disabled children in the family context and within school, being a looked after disabled child, living with a life-limiting condition; asylum, disability and childhood; access to play for disabled children and the transition to adult life. There will be an emphasis on the inclusion of the views and perspectives of disabled children both in relation to their own lives and in the development of social and public policy. The example of disabled children and young people’s input into the development of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) will be explored. Methodological approaches in a research context, which are focused on the inclusion of disabled children will be considered from a practice perspective.

The aims are:

  • To introduce and critically reflect on theories of Disabled Childhoods within the wider context of Disability Studies, with reference to Childhood Studies and Social Policy.
  • To critically examine the policy and practice which is focused on enabling the inclusion of disabled children.
  • To consider the lived experiences of disabled children drawn from empirical work and the way in which they negotiate the gap between rhetoric and experience.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of the unit, students will be able to:

1) identify and demonstrate an understanding of how key theories in disability studies can be applied to disabled childhoods

2) critically reflect on contemporary research in disabled childhood studies

3) identify and critically examine UK policy relating to disabled children

4) understand and reflect critically on the lived experience of disabled children through a range of contexts drawing on empirical research in the field.

Teaching Information

A mix of lectures, interactive sessions and small group exercises will form the core of the teaching, with a varied input on each day of the intensive three-day block.

Disabled young people with direct lived experience of the issues discussed in the Unit will be included in some sessions as tutors or guest speakers, in line with practices developed successfully in other MDS units.

Assessment Information

Formative assessment: preparatory reading, to be critiqued and presented to fellow students during the unit, with tutor feedback on how to approach and critically present literature.

Summative assessment will consist of a 4,000 word essay which will assess whether the intended learning outcomes have been met.

Reading and References

  • Greig, A., Taylor, J. and Mackay, T. (2012) Doing Research with Children (3rd edition). London:Sage
  • Curran, T. & Runswick-Cole, K., (2013) Disabled Children’s childhood studies. Critical approaches in the global context. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Beasley, S. and Williams, V. (eds) (2013) Childhood and Disability: key papers from Disability & Society. Routledge (Taylor & Francis)
  • Children and Society (26) (2012) Special Issue: Research the lives of Disabled Children and young People.
  • Child Care in Practice (21:3) (2015) Special Issue: Valuing Disabled Children: Participation and Inclusion
  • Child Care in Practice (21:1) (2015) Special Issue: Valuing Disabled Children and Young People.