Social Construction of Disability: Parallel Process in Arts Therapies Education and Practice

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Aims and Objectives

This presentation explores the introduction of a social model interpretation of disability (Goodley, 2017) to students on a postgraduate arts therapies training course, and considers whether insight into this paradigm could inform a cohort of allied health professionals' conception of their clinical and research practices. It is proposed that sharing this pedagogy of ideas (Healey, 2005a) at an early stage of training could inform increasingly accessible and service-user informed research and practice, as advocated by HCPC (2013). Insight into social construction of disability (Rapley, 2010) may also empower students’ ownership of their own learner journey and enable challenging of systemic barriers to participation in their own experiences (Kendall, 2016), in turn contributing to increasingly inclusive postgraduate communities.

Evidence Base for the Content

While the HCPC determines the subject matter that higher education institutions explore on accredited training courses, there is flexibility about the paradigm through which this material is presented. Contrasting perspectives are shared in literature of arts therapies pedagogy (Goodman, 2015) however a medical model paradigm appears to remain dominant. While there is literature exploring the pedagogy of disability in areas such as primary education (Lingard, 2007), teacher training (Penketh and Waite, 2018) and art education (Penketh, 2016), there is a lack of research into the specific lens through which arts therapy trainees are introduced to the construct of disability. With the potential perpetuation of ableist ideologies in HE more broadly (Dolmage, 2017; Kim and Aquino, 2017), there seems to be scope for discussion around an inclusive, non-normative pedagogy of therapeutic practice (Pickard, In Press).

Conclusions and Recommendations

It is proposed that incorporation of a critical disability studies perspective into arts therapies training could nurture increasingly inclusive approaches to practice as well as increasingly inclusive postgraduate communities where students are empowered to identify solutions to their own learning challenges (Pickard and Norris, 2018) through an anti-oppressive pedagogy (Beckett, 2015).


Beckett, A. E. (2015), ‘Anti-Oppressive Pedagogy and Disability: Possibilities and Challenges’, Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research, 17(1), p. 76 – 94

Dolmage, J. T. (2017), Academic Ableism: Disability and Higher Education (Corporealities: Discourses of Disabilities), University of Michigan Press
Goodman, K. D. (Ed) (2015), International Perspectives in Music Therapy Education and Training: Adapting to a Changing World, Springfield, Illinois: Charles C Thomas Publisher
Healey M. (2005a) Linking research and teaching: disciplinary spaces, in: R. Barnett (Ed.) Reshaping the university: new relationships between research, scholarship and teaching pp.30-42 (Maidenhead: Open University Press)
HCPC (2013), ‘Standards of Proficiency for Arts Therapists’, Available at Accessed 11th January 2018
Kim, E. and Aquino, K. C. (Eds) (2017), Disability as Diversity in Higher Education: Policies and Practices to Enhance Student Success, London: Routledge
Lingard, B. (2007), ‘Pedagogies of Indifference’, International Journal of Inclusive Education, 11(3), p. 245-266
Penketh, C. (2016), ‘Creative Subjects? Critically Documenting Art Education and Disability’ In Bolt, D., Changing Social Attitudes Towards Disability: Perspectives From Historical, Cultural and Educational Studies, London: Routledge, p. 132 – 141
Penketh, C. and Waite, L. (2018), ‘Lessons in Critical Avoidance: Disability Studies and ‘Special Educational Needs’, In Bolt, D. and Penketh, C., Disability, Avoidance and the Academy: Challenging Resistance, London and New York: Routledge
Pickard, B. and Norris, V. (2018), ‘The Process of Accessing the Disability and Dyslexia Service at USW: Outcomes of a Collaborative Pilot Study’, University of South Wales Learning and Teaching Conference 2018
Pickard, B. (In Press), ‘Valuing Neurodiversity: A Humanistic, Non-normative Model of Music Therapy Exploring Rogers’ Person-Centred Approach with Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Conditions’, In Dunn, H., Coombes, E., Maclean, E., Mottram, H. and Nugent, J. (Eds), A Spectrum of Approaches: Music Therapy and Autism Across the Life Span, London: Jessica Kingsley
Rapley, M. (2010), The Social Construction of Intellectual Disability, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2018
EventCreating Inclusive Postgraduate Cultures and Communities: UKCGE Annual Conference 2018 - Mercure Hotel, Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom
Duration: 2 Jul 20183 Jul 2018


ConferenceCreating Inclusive Postgraduate Cultures and Communities
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • inclusive education
  • postgraduate
  • arts therapy
  • pedagogy


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