DRF Seminars 2014-2015

Wednesday 22nd October, 11-12, Room 100009

Slot 1: Lauran Doak, Sheffield Hallam University: Augmentative & Alternative Communication: is there a ‘best fit’ model of disability?

Abstract: Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC) is a field of educational and clinical practice which aims to provide preverbal individuals with a means to augment or replace spoken language.  Depending on the individual’s abilities and requirements, this may involve manual signing, graphic symbols, communication boards, eye-gaze technology, or speech-generating devices.  With regard to models of disability, Gustavsson (2004) provides a useful overview of four broad schools of thought: individual essentialism (the ‘medical model’); contextual essentialism (the ‘social model’); constructionism (related to Cultural Disability Studies) and relative interactionism.  At present there is very little theoretical discussion of the relationship between AAC and the first three, although multiple authors have converged on the possibility of situating AAC within the fourth category of relative interactionism. In this presentation I will explore the possible relationship between AAC provision and each theoretical approach to disability.

Thursday 20th November, 12-2, Room 10111

Slot 1: John Rees, Independent Scholar: Care – essence of our being?

Abstract: Care: a philosophical and political concept that is consciously acted upon in life – why do we care? We have the word that completes the thoughts that with that word we shape our practice. Our practice then completes that process in which thought is enriched and is completed into a rich and engaging intervention into the lives of others, a dialectic of love precisely because of the contradictions thrown up by care under the rule of capital.

Slot 2:  Jill Smith, Sheffield Hallam University: Imagining otherwise for autistic children’s play

Abstract: This paper was written as the result of recent collaborative work with Prof Dan Goodley as part of The University of Sheffield’s Exploring Play MOOC: The Importance of Play in Everyday Life. I tell stories of everyday autistic childhoods which move away from the narrow focus of traditional developmental psychology and autism studies and instead draw inter-disciplinary threads from childhood studies, critical disability studies, and most recently, the emotional geographies. These are stories that I would suggest, families are already telling, but that the study of autism, and autistic children’s play leave largely untold. I spend time with autistic children and their families, at home, school, in parks and digging in allotments telling stories about their lived, bodily, sensorial experiences of everyday life. These embodied experiences often (I’d suggest almost always), involve play. From the outset that might be challenged by some as dominant narratives of autism would have us believe that autistic children often do not play, that abnormal play, or no play, is itself a ‘symptom’ of autism. In this paper I aim to reclaim play for autistic children (and disabled children more broadly). I question normative notions of play to open up definitions of what it means to play and what kind of space play should be. In re-imagining a conceptualisation of play, we are able to re-imagine autism, and collectively imagine otherwise for autistic children’s play.

Wednesday 10th December, 10-12, Room 100009

Slot 1: Joanna Baker-Rogers: Asperger Syndrome – experiencing the phenomenon of friendship (Sheffield Hallam University, UK)

Abstract: As the mother of a son with the label of Asperger Syndrome (AS), I have observed my son enjoying friendships with peers both on the autism spectrum and non-disabled. These observations would appear to challenge the diagnostic view that persons with AS do not enjoy friendship. Instead they prefer solitary activities and being alone. This conceptualisation of the autism spectrum embodies the medical model of disability and in-particular the Triad of Impairments (Wing 1995). The literature is dominated by understandings of friendship of non-disabled people (O’Dell, Bertildotter Rosqvist and Brownlow (2013). There is little consideration of potential autistic friendships from a social model of disability perspective. Instead the focus is on the failure of persons with AS to aspire to and maintain friendships with the aim of improving themselves to experience friendship from a non-disabled perspective.  I have come to question whether concepts of friendship are being imposed upon persons with AS that have little meaning for them, are disabling and embody the concepts of normalcy (Abberley 1991) and ableism (Campbell 2012).

The medical model of disability view of persons with AS not being interested in friendship needs to be problematised. This presentation of my research critiques these misconceptions that have emerged as a result of social barriers in society. My research aims to capture the different and valid lived experience of friendship for persons with AS that challenges the conceptualisation of the autism spectrum as a tragedy for the individual and their family.

Slot 2: Chris Hill: Special School Sporting Experiences: Listening to Student Researchers Labelled with Behavioural, Emotional and Social Difficulties (Sheffield Hallam University, UK)

Tuesday 10th February, 2-4, Room 10111

Slot 1: Harriet Cameron, University of Sheffield, UK: Dyslexia, Discourse and Higher Education

Under UK law dyslexia is a disability and the label entitles students within higher education to certain supports. However, students with the label I have come across during my work as a specialist tutor conceptualise dyslexia in different ways.  Some say they feel they are just ‘stupid’, some consider dyslexia a medical condition, some feel that dyslexia is a positive, and others feel they are simply different, part of a neuro-diverse population.  My position is that the ways dyslexia is constructed in any particular interaction, or in any wider text, have implications for how students with the label construct their identities (and others’ identities) as academic learners. In turn, I believe certain ways of being and doing are opened up or closed down by the ‘subject positions’ (Davies & Harre, 2001) these constructions offer. Today I will discuss a discourse analysis of two focus group conversations between dyslexic university students and myself. In this session I will talk about the different subject positions participants took up or offered, the wider discourses they drew upon, and the implications of these for ‘being’ and identity within the higher education context.  While this study has been undertaken in the UK, the implications are relevant to our understandings of learning and identity across the western world where individualistic and meritocratic ideologies pervade educational discourse. In helping students, teachers, and other educational practitioners to become more aware of the discursive production of ‘facts’ like dyslexia, the hope is that they will become better able to critically interrogate their own learning identities and have more awareness of the ways they position themselves and others.

  • Davies,B., and Harre,R. (2001) Positioning: The Discursive Production of Selves. Reading 19 in in Wetherell,M., Taylor,S., Yates,S. (Eds.) (2001) Discourse, Theory and Practice: A Reader. 261-271. London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi: Sage Publications/ The Open University.

Slot 2: Teodor Mladenov, Kings College London, UK: Disability in state socialism and postsocialism

 Abstract:  Seminal works in disability studies (Finkelstein, 1980; Oliver, 1990; Stone, 1984) have shown that the analysis of large-scale transformations – such as the one from feudalism to industrial capitalism – is indispensable for understanding and critique of present-day constructions of disability. The transition from state socialism to postsocialist capitalism in Eastern Europe invites similar considerations – the genealogy of disability policy in postsocialist countries necessarily leads back to their socialist past (Philips, 2009). Proceeding from these presumptions, in this presentation I will first outline some political-economic features of state socialism that underpinned its productivism. Productivism will be regarded as a mechanism (‘assemblage’) that reduces humans to resources utilisable for the enhancement of productive output. I will then explore some ways in which productivism has shaped disability policy in the socialist countries of the Eastern Bloc. Finally, I will look at the ways in which this state socialist legacy has influenced present-day disability policy in the postsocialist region. I will welcome reflections on similarities and differences with ‘advanced liberal’ (Rose, 1996) societies such as the UK.

  • Finkelstein, V. (1980) Attitudes and Disabled People: Issues for Discussion. New York: World Rehabilitation Fund.
  •  Oliver, M. (1990) The Politics of Disablement. London: Macmillan.
  •  Phillips, S. D. (2009) ‘“There are no invalids in the USSR!”: A missing Soviet chapter in the new disability history’, Disability Studies Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 3, n.p.
  •  Rose, N. (1996) ‘Governing “advanced” liberal democracies’, in A. Barry, T. Osborne and N. Rose (eds) Foucault and Political Reason: Liberalism, Neo-Liberalism and Rationalities of Government. London: UCL Press, pp. 37-64.
  • Stone, D. (1984) The Disabled State. London: Macmillan.

Wednesday 25th March, 1-3, Room 10111

Slot 1: Kirsty Liddiard, University of Sheffield: “I’m a lie-back-and-think-of-England type of man”: Imagining the Posthuman Dis/sexual Subject.

Abstract:  In this talk, I critically imagine the possibilities of a posthuman disabled sexual subject (Braidotti 2013). In rejecting the routine linear interconnectedness of sex/uality and “humanness” in Western, dis/ableist, neoliberal, capitalist cultures, I suggest that disabled/Crip sexualities – which can be unquestionably non-normative, inter/dependent, radically relational (e.g. sexual support), collaborative, collective, queered, unpredictable, leaky, and technologised and/or cyborg  – are already resolutely and transgressively posthuman.

Yet, I purposefully complicate this transformative imagining by positioning it within the context of disabled people’s lived experiences of sexual and intimate life. Telling their own intimate and intricate sexual stories, disabled people forcefully asserted a (naturalised) sexual subjectivity and made claims only for normative sexual citizenship, locating their rights, access, agency and embodied experiences of sex/uality as central to their humanness (Liddiard 2012, 2013). Desiring (and labouring towards) a normalised, autonomous, independent, and bounded sexual reality was a viable (but precarious) means through which to humanise the self and served, for some, to gain entry into mainstream sexual cultures. Such labours were purposeful, then, towards feeling and enacting “human” in the context of lives and selves consistently devalued and dehumanised.

Utilising Goodley and Runswick-Cole’s (forthcoming: pagination unknown) recent articulation of the dis/human position, through which it becomes possible to ‘recognise the norm, the pragmatic and political value of claiming the norm’ while always seeking to disrupt and contest it, I conclude by calling for what I call the Dis/sexual. To do so, I locate the very dis/human moments in disabled people’s sexual stories, sketching out the dis/sexual as a transformative space through which disabled/Crip subjects can claim their humanness through conventional modes of sex/uality and gender, yet simultaneously defy, crip and exceed such boundaries.

Slot 2: Nick Hodge, Sheffield Hallam University and Katherine Runswick-Cole, Manchester Metropolitan University: “You say… I hear…”: Epistemic gaps in practitioner-parent/carer talk

 Abstract: The development of practitioner-parent/carer partnerships has been a focus of Government policy in England for over 20 years. However, parents and carers continue to report that they often feel marginalised and excluded within these relationships. This paper explores practitioner-parent/carer talk to explain why and how these partnerships break down. In doing so we employ MacKenzie and Scully’s (2007) concept of the occupation of different epistemic positions to provide a theoretical exploration of the emergence of practitioner-parent/carer divides. We argue here that practitioners need to develop more informed understandings from parents and carers of what it might mean to parent a disabled child. This will then enable practitioners to employ ‘sympathetic moral imagination’ to avoid the alienation of parents and carers through their talk.

Tuesday 28rd April, 10-12, Room 10111

Slot 1: Lucia Radcliffe – Dehumanising experiences of creating a human. critical analysis of being a disabled pregnant woman

Abstract: It is often taken as a given that there is nothing more natural, normal and, perhaps, more human, than a woman getting pregnant and giving birth. That is until disability enters the picture and skews what it means to be (and not to be) ‘natural’, ‘normal’ and ‘human’. “For the first time in my life I have recently come to feel “normal”.  In the last year I have graduated, just got married and become pregnant. That’s what normal humans do, isn’t it?” (Mum to be-my subject).  However, in the process of creating another human, this woman has somehow become dehumanised by the system, labelled abnormal, and treated ‘differently’.  In this ‘paper in progress’ I intend to use the experiences of a pregnant disabled woman to critically reflect on concepts of what it means to be (and not be) human, in particular a ‘normal’ human. As a pregnant disabled women she finds herself feeling judged, surviellied and ‘normalised’ in surprising ways. I approach this project from a critical disability studies perspective, using a multidisciplinary framework to interpret and make sense of her experiences. The main themes emerging are professional power(lessness) and control and the strategic engagement with both ab/normal and dis/abled. In an important move, which I also seek to discuss, this paper is intended to dehumanise the experiences of dehumanisation in order to theorise them and detach the great emotions that this paper holds which I fear would otherwise drown me.

Slot 2: Kumiko Kido, Sheffield Hallam University: “What are the positive experiences for Japanese parents of children with autism?

Abstract: To date, the majority of existing studies on supporting families of children with autism have focused on negative parenting outcomes, such as parental depression, psychosis, or other mental health problems. In this study I will identify positive experiences of parenting as reported by parents of children with autism and Asperger’s syndrome. The study seeks to identify the strategies that parents construct for themselves to enable positive experiences to emerge. It also reveals external factors that contribute to turning points in parenting experience. These turning points encourage a shift in parents’ cognitions from conceptualising their experience as tragic to more positive perspectives. This study utilizes as data sources autobiographies written by parents in Japan. The parental definition of ‘positive experience’ also emerges through the collected data. Initial analysis of the data suggests that   parents’ narratives of their own experience rebutt the personal tragedy model of disability and lead to more empowering models of parenting.


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