Symbolic Interaction in Inclusive Fourth and Fifth Grade Classrooms: Can She Pinch Me Goodbye?




Bentley, Judy K.C.

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A Foucauldian genealogy was combined with symbolic interactionism to investigate disability and inclusion, and the interactions and meanings attached to these concepts. The research revealed excluding and including interactions within self-described inclusive practices. Excluding interactions with Ashley (pseudonym), an 11-year-old, nonverbal girl with Rett syndrome, included: unspeakability, medical Othering, infantilization; academic exclusion through low expectations and limited participation; and role erasure. Excluding interactions tended to support existing meanings of disability and inclusion. Including interactions, most often observed between Ashley and her peers with and without disabilities, included: speakability, medical sharing, age-appropriate expectations, academic inclusion, and role presence. Including interactions tended to transform existing meanings of disability and inclusion. Symbolic interactionist definitions-symbolic inclusion and symbolic exclusion-were posited. Children's instinctive meanings and interactions were shown to be in line with current thinking on some instructional and assessment strategies in special education. Symbolic inclusion was considered to be applicable to issues of school improvement and social justice that are not confined to special education.



children with disabilities, special education, inclusive education, symbolic interactionism, Rett syndrome


Bentley, J.K.C. (2005). Symbolic interaction in inclusive fourth and fifth grade classrooms : can she pinch me goodbye? (Unpublished dissertation). Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas.


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