Tobbell, Jane and Lawthom, Rebecca (2005) Dispensing with labels: Enabling children and professionals to share a community of practice. Educational and Child Psychology, 22 (3). pp. 89-97. ISSN 0267 1611

This paper investigates, through critical review, the label of emotional and behavioural difficulties and its
utility in child and professional relationships. Considerable human energy and resources have been focused
on ameliorating the individual and social implications of behaviour difficulties. However, the effort
expended has often been levelled at individual (and policy) interventions, thereby neglecting the relationship
element. We propose a reconceptualisation of the label (and thereby stigma) through envisioning learning
as doing/participation. The communities of practice literature challenges the notion that learning is a
time-limited activity, dependent on individual cognition. Instead learning is synonymous with being, and
is a continuous and embedded process. Hence, learning and identity are inextricably linked and located
in the various practice settings inhabited by children and professionals. The relationships emerge from and
are shaped by the attendant practices which surround the term ‘difficulties’: children with ‘difficulties’ need
‘special’ attention to ‘improve’ their cognitions. In this paper we explore, using the community of practice
literature, how learning and inclusion are processes of participation and suggest practices which would
serve to liberate the child and the professional from the ‘difficult’ relationship/identity/label.


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