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Unit information: Understanding and Challenging Social Barriers in 2016/17

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Unit name Understanding and Challenging Social Barriers
Unit code ACHSD0003
Credit points 20
Level of study D/8
Teaching block(s) Academic Year (weeks 1 - 52)
Unit director Professor. Val Williams
Open unit status Not open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit seeks to establish an integrated social model for understanding the contexts in which children live, and will draw on a range of research projects carried out at Norah Fry Centre for Disability Studies and elsewhere. Children develop in interaction with their own culture, their families, linguistic environment and social network, and have a multiplicity of identities. There are also barriers created by society which will tend to prevent children from reaching their potential. During this unit, there will be a chance to consider the particular issues for a range of children, in their social context. This unit will consider generic issues to do with identity, individual and social development. It will then move on to consider how these impinge on particular groups, those with Autisitc Spectrum disorders, dyslexia and learning disabilities, and will consider how these issues impact on professional practice in relation to families, transition and to establishing 'student centred' practice through accessible communication tools.


  • To equip students with current, relevant and practical knowledge of social models, and how these relate to identity issues.
  • To place this knowledge within an understanding of cultural, linguistic and social diversity.
  • To consider the topics of language development, literacy and learning in the light of the above knowledge, and to understand how differences in any of these may lead to social as well as educational barriers for the child (specifically, ASD, dyslexia, learning disability).
  • To promote an interest in the role of the EP in challenging social barriers, taking account of the issues of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexuality and social disadvantage.

To develop a holistic view of the learner’s life goals and opportunities beyond school.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this unit, students will demonstrate a reflective understanding of how to approach issues of identity, diversity and classification. They will have developed a knowledge of social contexts and social models, as they apply to the development of language, learning and literacy. They will be able to apply this knowledge to their own practice in terms of interactions with families, students and professionals at key stages of the child’s career, and they will have developed a critique of ways of listening to learners’ voices.

Teaching details

Guided reading, lectures, tutorials. At least one of the sessions will include a co-tutor representing an EP client group. Placement will be organised within the programme as a whole to allow observation and reflection on the issues raised in the Unit.

Assessment Details

Completion of a 4000 word assignment, which will give evidence of a reflective understanding of issues of identity, diversity and classification. The assignment will also demonstrate knowledge of various models of disability, including the social model, and will apply a critical approach to the application of these models in practice. The assignment requires students to select particular children with whom they have worked, and to analyse their own input in the light of the theories covered in this unit.

Reading and References

Curran, T. & Runswick-Cole, K. (eds) (2013) Disabled Children's Childhood Studies: Critical Approaches in a Global Context . Palgrave Macmillan

  • Kristiansen, K., Yehman, S. and Shakespeare, T. (eds) Arguing about disability: philosophical perspectives. London: Routledge,

Swain, J., French, S.. Barnes, C. and Thomas, C. (eds.)(2004) Disabling Barriers – Enabling Environments (2nd ed.) . London: Sage.

Shakespeare, T. and Watson, N. (2002) The social model of disability: an outdated ideology? Research in Social Science and Disability (2): 9-28.

Thomas, C. (2004) How is disability understood? An examination of sociological approaches. Disability and Society, 2004: 569-583.

Connors, C. and Stalker, K. (2007) Children’s experiences of disability: pointers to a social model of childhood disability. Disability & Society, 22:1, 19-33.

Norwich, B., Kelly, N. and Educational Psychologists in Training (2006)

“Evaluating Children’s Participation in SEN Procedures: Lessons for educational psychologists”, Educational Psychology in Practice, 22 (3) 255-271

  • Ware, L., Kincheloe, J., Steinberg, SR (eds) (2004) Ideology and the Politics of (In)Exclusion. NY: Peter Lang.