Disabling Language Practices: Discursive Constructions of Children in Individual Education Plan Resource Documents

Disabling Language Practices: Discursive Constructions of Children in Individual Education Plan Resource Documents
By Victoria Boyd - 2014

Background: The Individual Education Plan (IEP) and related resource documents shape the lived realities of children in special education programs. Although these documents aim to assist children in achieving their educational goals, a point of disjuncture can exist between the documents’ intentions and the actual experiences of children. Addressing this issue is crucial in order to prevent inequality and to foster educational development and social wellbeing for children.

Purpose: This study explores the discursive construction of children in IEP resource documents in order to illuminate the underlying implications of the language comprising these texts.

Method: Data was collected by gathering IEP resource documents from the Ontario Ministry of Education website. Discourse analysis was then employed to examine the presence of the equative and attributive models, the passive voice, and the possessive construction. Lastly, disability theory was used to explore how these language practices conceptualize children.

Results: The data set included zero instances of the equative model, an infrequent use of the attributive model, and a strong presence of both the passive voice and the possessive construction. These findings contributed to representations of children as exceptional, passive, and subordinate despite an explicit attempt to resist such conceptions.

Conclusion: This study serves as a model through which the language practices of other special education documents can be critically evaluated, and offers potential avenues for creating documents that avoid disabling children further.