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Paving the way through mainstream education: the interplay of families, schools and disabled students

AuthorsBuchner, Tobias; Smyth, Fiona; Biewer, Gottfried; Shevlin, Michael; Ferreira, Miguel A. V.; Toboso-Martín, Mario CSIC ORCID ; Rodríguez Díaz, Susana; Šiška, Jan; Latimier, Camille; Kanova, Sarka
Social capital
Cultural capital
Life course
Issue Date2015
PublisherTaylor & Francis
CitationResearch Papers in Education 30 (4): 411-426 (2015)
Abstract[EN] There has been much debate around the role of parents in supporting their disabled children in mainstream schools. Several authors have pointed to parents’ advocacy and their engagement with professionals. Parents often perceived mainstream settings as fostering better social and academic learning for their offspring. However, while parents’ perspectives on ‘inclusive education’ have been subject to considerable research, relatively little is known about perceptions of parental support in mainstream schooling from the viewpoint of the disabled persons involved. Recently, a few studies have pointed to the benefits of biographical approaches for analysing this topic of concern. This paper aims to contribute to this emergent strand of research, and investigates the interplay of students, their parents and mainstream schools in relation to disability over time. In so doing, we draw on the life stories of three disabled young persons. In reading the stories, we refer to life course concepts and capital theory. Our analyses show that, across cases, despite different national education systems, participants’ perceived learning environments in mainstream schools as frequently characterised by the disabling practices of professionals. Parental support is highlighted in the narratives as highly influential for academic achievement and in facilitating progress through mainstream school settings in face of attitudinal barriers. Parents’ interventions and their social and cultural capital played a significant role in shaping participants’ subjectivities and responses to hostile learning environments. Strategies developed in these settings appeared to be ‘learned’ and even internalised by our participants, and can be identified as key also in tackling challenges in post-school life. While the importance of parental support to the educational trajectories of their offspring is well described, we point to the specificity of parental support as a reaction to disabling learning environments, facilitating the development of resilient strategies in disabled students.
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