From Individualism to Co-Construction and Back Again: Rethinking Research Methodology for Children with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities

Ben Simmons, Debbie L Watson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book

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Abstract

Children with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) are said to experience severe congenital impairments to consciousness and cognition stemming from neurological damage. Such children are understood as operating at the pre-verbal stages of development, and research in the field typically draws conceptual resources from psychology to devise educational interventions and assessment tools. Criticism has been levelled at studies which treat children with PMLD as objects of research rather than subjects to be consulted. Proponents of the latter view have attempted to redress the situation by exploring how personal experiences can be gleaned through adapted qualitative methods. Debate about methodology in the PMLD field tends to coalesce around these individualist polemics: children with PMLD are either positioned as incompetent and lacking voice; or researchers are positioned as lacking the appropriate tools to gain access to such voice.

This paper offers an alternative position to the individualism of post-positivist/constructivist approaches, identifying the need for a critical and participatory approach which sees knowledge about children with PMLD as situated and co-constructed through regular and longitudinal interaction between the researcher, children with PMLD, and significant others. Context to this argument is provided by exploring the application of this approach
to an inclusive education research project for a child with PMLD.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationValuing Disabled Children and Young People
Subtitle of host publicationResearch, Policy, and Practice
EditorsBerni Kelly, Bronagh Byrne
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherRoutledge
Number of pages184
ISBN (Print)9781138687080
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Keywords

  • CHILDHOOD
  • DISABILITY
  • methodology

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