Case Study Chris Societal Perceptions

Disability in Childhood

Disability is a condition that results from the deprivation of some basic skills and abilities to an individual, which leads to the individual having a challenge to conduct themselves normally. The condition results from cognitive, developmental, physical and sensory impairments, or a combination of these (Thomson 2017). Such a condition interferes with the conducting of the normal activities by the individual, such as movement, speaking, thinking among others. Persons with disabilities are often exposed to various attitudes and perceptions in the society, which are contributed to by the immediate family and other associations. However, there are provisions by the government which emphasise on the care that can be accorded such people. Still, there are sociological guidelines that can be followed in order to accord these persons equality in the society, including allowing them the dignity to be functional members of the society and not burden to it (Goodley 2016). This paper analyses the lives of children and youths with disabilities through the case study of Chris. Chris is a teenager of seventeen years, who is paralysed from the waist downwards after an accident. His life is filled with stigma and misinformed perceptions from the society, which bothers him. For example, he finds it uncomfortable when someone expresses an attitude that he cannot work. Current service provisions in relation to society and children and youths with disability will be discussed, and finally an assessment of the roles of the state and family in relation to the disabled children and youths will be provided.


It is important to note that persons with disability deserve respect and fair judgement without discrimination or dismissal. How a person with disability, especially children and youths, will be treated is informed by how their disability is conceptualised in the society (Sharma and Dunay 2016). Central to such a perception are three main concepts namely childhood, family, disability and impairment. Childhood and family concepts are informed by the social model of disability, which emphasises on the place of family and other social relations in the life of the disabled child or youth. To begin with, there are defined stages of childhood and development. These stages of development range from physical development to cognitive development, where normality is measured by conformity to that arrangement. For example, a normal child is supposed to have the ability to move their limbs before they can walk on their feet (Winnick and Porretta 2018). The progressive growth of the child is marked through evident development of their physical features and their ability to use those features effectively, for example using legs for movement. However, if a child does not develop according to these patterns, then the child is suspected to be impaired or disabled. The second concept is the family setting. Parents desire the best for their children. Due to the normalcy dictated by normal body development, the family is concerned if they observe that their child is not developing normally (Bennett, Grossberg and Morris 2013). Such occurrences are accompanied by feelings of shame and embarrassment, which causes the members of such a family to shy off associating with such a child. Still, the family may also face stigmatisation from the society, where the society may insinuate that the disabled child is a burden to that family. Chris was often met with the notion that he was not worthy of his girlfriend, which at one time resulted to physical assaults from the bullies. Still, some people pointed out that he was lucky to have such a supportive girlfriend based on their notion that he was entirely dependent on her help as he could not do anything on his own. From these incidences, it is clear that the society victimises the family of the disabled as well. Important to the disabled is the support of the family (Riddell and Watson 2014). When the family does not shy away from being associated with their disabled persons, the rejection and stigmatisation from the rest of the society becomes void. For example, the responses of the Chris’ girlfriend indicated support and acceptance of his condition by considering him as a whole being, worthy of equal respects and dignity (Shakespeare 2013). In an instance when one person pointed how lucky Chris was to have her, she responded by reversing the focus of importance. She declared that she was lucky to have him. Such a response must have restored the hitherto destroyed esteem of Chris. Finally, disability and impairment derive one of the ease to conduct daily activities. Movement from one place to another is one of these activities. Being confined to the wheelchair limits disabled children and youths to places customised to accommodate their disabilities. For example, use of public means of transport was challenging to Chris, where he could not move as efficiently as he wished. A reconnaissance had to be conducted before he used certain means of transport or went to some places. An example is determining the presence of ramps and wheelchair-friendly pavements and paths (Dolbow and Figoni 2015).

From these concepts and the accompanying perspectives, it is clear that the society at large upholds normalcy, which is dictated by the adherence of an individual to the stated conventions. However, there are policies and provisions in the society that have challenged these negative perspectives towards disability and enhanced positivity and equality in the attitude towards such persons. Some of these policies are social in nature while others are legal. This section will focus on the social aspect of policies. Main policies that will be discussed in the social context are special educational needs for disabled children and youths and inclusion. Education is one of the basic needs in the contemporary society. Therefore, every child should access education in order to attain skills and knowledge that will make the more efficient as functional members of the society (Fitzgerald 2016). The children and youths with disabilities should be allowed equal opportunities to be educated. The structures for learning should accommodate their differences. Still, the institutions should provide for the specific educational needs of such learners (Hodkinson 2015). For example, the presence of ramps will facilitate the movement of learners on wheelchairs around the school. Another provision is sitting arrangement in class. Children and youths who are disabled should be conveniently positions to enhance comfort and concentration in class. For example, learners with paralysis should be positioned on a stable ground, which is levelled to prevent falls. There should also be enough space to ensure that they are relaxed in the class and can easily move using their wheelchair. This also applies to the means of transport that they use to and from school (Goodley 2016). Inconveniences such as congested classes could result to discomforts such as muscular pain or suffocation. Such learners should therefore be strategically positioned in class and be given ample space. The management of such institutions should be sensitive to the disabilities of these learners such that other administrative measures are put to ensure that these learners are protected at school. For example, their diet should be rich to cater for their special nutritional needs. The school should also provide health assistance where necessary, for example administering first-aid in-case of accidents such as muscular pain.

Inclusion is core to human needs. The sense of belonging contributes to the esteem of the individual (Kulik 2018). The child or youth with disability are often excluded from some of the activities in the society because they are perceived to be unable to handle them, or even unworthy of them. An example is the physical assault of Chris on account of his girlfriend. Such treatments result from the perception that the disabled youth is incapable of participating in social matters such as relationships with ‘normal’ people. Person-centred planning is one of the policies that have advocated for the inclusion of the disabled children and youths in the social functions. For example, they should be allowed to freely interact with whomever they desire, and should not be put in isolation. Allowing such persons the freedom to interact is one of the primary ways of including them in the functional systems of the society (Titelman 2014). All these provisions ensure that the disabled child or youth enjoys social benefits and that they enjoy equal opportunities and privileges with the other members of the society. They also include the disabled as part of the functional members of the society.

In addition to the family and society, the state has a role to play in the lives of the disabled children and youths, through laws and legal requirements. The children and Families Act requires that the children and youths acquire social care, for example, they are entitled to a family (Lowe and Douglas 2015). This legal requirement is meant to enhance satisfaction of these individuals such that they are comfortable. If the family of the disabled children does not satisfy their needs or has been proved to discriminate them, the child is provided the love and care of family through other means such as adoption and care homes. While adoption is a long process, it allows the child to experience permanence in belonging and love. Still, living in care homes allows them to live with others whom they have things in common, thus are free from discriminations from the conventionalised society. Living together with other disabled children results to an understanding, where the cases of dismissal and rejection are minimal. This results to contentment in the child. On the case of the youths, the act has allowed them to make some decisions on their own. For example, they may decide to learn from home or transfer to another school. Such decisions are properly processed through legal steps and should be respected as they are informed by the desire to be fulfilled. Such youths are also entitled to choice and control, where they should be allowed to rely on themselves as much as possible. The feeling of independence contributes to power and control over their lives, such that they enjoy functioning in the society (Glimcher and Fehr 2013). The Equality Act requires that all individuals be allowed equal opportunities in the society despite their diversity and differences (Shakespeare 2017). Youths with disabilities should be allowed responsibilities such as starting families and other roles in the society such as leadership positions. The act also provides for equality in the places of work or schooling. For example, admissions to schools should be done without biasness on the basis of their disability. They should access services such as education and health from any institution. Even in employment, the disabled should be treated equally with the other employees, and their working conditions enhanced to keep them comfortable and safe at work (Wahab and Ayub 2016). The ‘unproductive defective’ perception of the disabled youths by the society and its institutions is controlled by this acts, which upholds the abilities and skills that the disabled children and youths have attained. These persons are then allowed to exercise their abilities in safe working environments to enhance their productivity.

In conclusion, it is clear that the society previously had a dominant perspective that the disabled children and youths are lesser or weaker members of the society. This is because if the misinformed measure of normalcy, based on the ability of the individual. This resulted to the negative attitudes towards those with disabilities, evident through dismissive and discriminative actions towards the disabled, for example, Chris was assaulted for having a beautiful girlfriend (Watson 2013). Such harassments are misinformed and the family, society and state have a responsibility to protect the disabled children and youths. The family has the responsibility to love and care for the disabled child or youth. The society should provide for equality and inclusion for the disabled as functional members of the society. Equality includes allowing them equal opportunities such as access to quality education and health care services. Inclusion involves allowing them to take part in exercising their knowledge and skills to reach self-actualisation (Cherry 2014). Their special needs in education should also be met. Finally, the state has the legal mandate to protect the disabled children and youths through laws that should govern how they are treated. For example, they should work under favourable conditions, and be allowed to contribute to the achievement of organisational goals and objectives without biasness on their disabilities. For example, public means of transport should provide for easy movement of the children and youths using wheelchairs to and from school.

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