Beyond development: applying the human development paradigm to identifying children with special needs and disabilities

Activity: Academic Talks or PresentationsOral presentationResearch


This paper explores two aspects of development in relation to children’s learning: cognitive developmental theories and the human development paradigm. In doing so the aim of the paper is to put forward first a critique of how developmental theories have been applied to construe what and how children with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities learn; second to put forward how the human development approach, based on the capability approach, can broaden our understanding of development; and third to suggest a way in which both types of development can be brought together to foster a valuable and meaningful education for all children. In doing so the paper argues that relying on one single way to understand and measure children development is not only short sighted, but counterproductive in as much as it can serve the purpose of stigmatizing and labelling children and thus narrowing the opportunities for learning and flourishing. In relation to freedom, a notion of development which is too structured and focused on cognitive outcomes only delimits, and consequently, limits the opportunities and potential for learning of any child, but particularly children with learning difficulties.
Period4 Sept 2013
Event titleBritish Educational Research Association Conference
Event typeConference
LocationSussex, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • SEN
  • capability approach
  • identification
  • provision