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Emancipating play: dis/abled children, development and deconstruction

Goodley, Dan A. and Runswick-Cole, Katherine (2010) Emancipating play: dis/abled children, development and deconstruction. Disability & Society, 25 (4). pp. 499-512. ISSN 1360-0508

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Abstract

This paper reflects critically on the meaning of play, especially as it relates to disabled children and their experiences. We explore the close alliance of play to cognitive and social development, particularly in the case of psychologies of development, and reveal a dominant discourse of the disabled child as a non-playing object that requires professional therapeutic intervention. We argue that this pathologisation of play on the part of disabled children is closely tied to normalisation of childhood, in which non-normal bodies are increasingly expected to be governed and corrected not only by professionals but also by parents/carers. In order to rescue more enabling visions of the disabled child and their play we turn to three perspectives - the new sociology of childhood; social oppression theories of disability; critical developmental psychology. These resources, we suggest, allow us to reconfigure what we mean by play and disability in a contemporary climate that celebrates competition and marketisation over the intrinsic potentialities of all children. We argue that how we conceive play will per se undermine or promote forms of inclusive research, policy and practice.

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