Play, as a major social institution, influences the shaping of society. By gathering in playground environments, children who do not necessarily know each other learn about others, social values and the communities in which they live. In this paper, the playground is examined as a place that can offer opportunities for children with impairments to play freely and creatively, or alternatively, to experience restrictions through structural oppression. The qualitative study reported on in this paper is drawn from an Australian Research Council Linkages Project. Data were collected from 72 participant children, who compiled personal photographic scrapbooks and were observed at play in playgrounds. Data were also obtained from a series of focus group discussions with parents of children with impairments and adults with impairments. In this paper, evidence is presented to demonstrate that children, through the spatiality of a purposed-provided play space, as a microcosm of society, come to understand disability and, therefore, those who are considered disabled. The presentation concludes that taken-for-granted and exclusive practices around playground configuration can have powerful repercussions upon the way difference attributed to impairment is socially constructed by children.
This paper examines play as a fundamental children’s activity, giving particular attention to the inclusion of children with impairments at play and children’s shared constructions of their playworlds. Children with impairments are customarily portrayed as incompetent, unskilled or deficient in their play, thus being positioned on the margins (or, as ‘who’s out’?) of mainstream discourses. On the other hand, non-impaired children are usually regarded as competent players, who play in ‘normal’ ways (as ‘who’s in’?). Little attention is afforded to noticing skilful or proficient play by children with impairments and including their perspectives in play research. The Social Model of Childhood Disability offers a perspective for considering ‘disabled childhoods’ and framing enquiry into the culturally-constructed playworlds of children with impairments. Evidence from two ethnographic studies that examine children with impairments at play is discussed, employing vignettes that utilise data from researcher and teacher observation notes. The authors document specific play interactions related to individual experiences and interests and explore how children work together and alone to create meaningful play interactions. The notion that play for children is a mutual, shared and inclusive cultural experience is supported in this paper.