The PMLD Ambiguity: Articulating the Life-Worlds of Children with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities

Author(s) : Ben Simmons, Author(s) : Debbie Watson

The PMLD Ambiguity: Articulating the Life-Worlds of Children with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities

Book Details

  • Publisher : Routledge
  • Published : May 2014
  • Cover : Paperback
  • Pages : 272
  • Category :
    Child and Adolescent Studies
  • Catalogue No : 32096
  • ISBN 13 : 9781780490342
  • ISBN 10 : 1780490348

Also by Debbie Watson

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This book challenges the ways we experience, think about, and interact with children described as having profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD). Contrary to received wisdom, the book starts from the premise that traditional psychological approaches operating in the “PMLD field” are overly reductive and constrain our abilities to listen to and learn from children with PMLD. This in turn runs the risk of maintaining exclusionary practices such as segregated education, where such practices are predicated upon the notion that some children are too disabled to participate in mainstream life.

To address the situation the authors explore new terrain in three areas: theory, research and practice. The authors draw from phenomenological notions of embodied consciousness and introduce how this gives rise to novel ways of understanding the agency of children with PMLD. This critique leads to examination of interpersonal methodology as a means to access the experiences of children with PMLD, which in turn culminates in a research project examining how inclusive education could support learning for a young boy with PMLD. What becomes apparent through this story is that children with PMLD engage with the world in ways far more complex than existing approaches can take account of.

Reviews and Endorsements

‘In this affirmative text, Ben Simmons and Debbie Watson seek to critique and oppose traditional psychologising explanations of disability and childhood and, in their place, open up phenomenological alternatives. In short, their work extends our understanding of what it means to be human in educational and social contexts: re-siting disability as an opportunity for rethinking how educators understand the human subjects of their interventions.’
—Professor Dan Goodley, School of Education, University of Sheffield

‘The most vulnerable children and adults in society (those with profound and multiple learning disabilities) need understanding and recognition that, at a fundamental level, the “inert behaviour” of children in special schools or adults in care provisions may be badges of resistance to inappropriate environments rather than an “inability to engage with the world or learn”. This book offers parents and professionals support to challenge existing frameworks of understanding PMLD and to develop better ways of “seeing” children and adults as “able”. It provides the basis to develop new practice, which engages with these vulnerable people as “people with identities”, rather than as “disabled objects” who happen to have the trappings of humanity.’
—Phil Bayliss, PhD, Independent Educational Consultant

About the Author(s)

Dr Ben Simmons is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol. His long-standing research interests involve developing understandings about the agency, lived experiences, and inclusion of children with PMLD. He is particularly interested in the application of phenomenology and consciousness studies to these issues. Before joining Bristol, he was a Qualitative Researcher at the Health Experiences Research Group, University of Oxford, where he developed an online information resource about arthritis in young people. Prior to this, he was a research assistant at the University of Exeter and Plymouth University, supporting projects in the fields of special education, inclusion, and outdoor pedagogy. He also worked as a researcher and support worker for third-sector disability organisations, including Scope and Mencap.

Dr Debbie Watson is a Senior Lecturer in Childhood Studies in the School for Policy Studies at the University of Bristol. She is a qualified secondary school teacher and has a PhD in Education from the University of Exeter (1998). Her research interests focus on understanding and improving children’s wellbeing, particularly in school contexts; rights-based approaches to working with children and young people; diversity and children’s identities; educational inclusion; and supporting children and families in inclusive services. Her current and recent research projects include projects developing postgraduate training for children’s advocates in Egypt and Jordan, quality in family support provisions, services for young disadvantaged children and post adoption support. She has long held interests in theorising children’s experiences of diversity and in developing methodologies that enable children and young people’s participation in research.

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