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Past event

Becoming literate in the language and politics of disability

shutterstock_32276014 (2)Online registration has now closed. If you want to attend this event, please email for details of how to register onsite.

This seminar examines the policy and professional practice based discourses and language surrounding disability and learning difficulties such as dyslexia and autism. The presentations will problematize the ‘common-sense’ assumptions and highlight debates surrounding the techniques which govern access to funding and professional practices such as assessment and diagnosis.

The speakers will also highlight the ways in which disabilities such as dyslexia and autism have been conceptualised and operationalised in relation to educational policy, funding initiatives and classroom practice. Their presentations will draw on the fields of social and political theory, educational history, inclusive practice and special education. This approach will highlight current debates related to disability and learning issues related to equity, social justice, access and taken for granted assumptions related to professional practices, policies and funding.

MARK OLSSEN is Emeritus Professor of Political Theory and Education Policy in the Department of Politics at the University of Surrey. His work focuses on drawing upon and adapting the work of thinkers like Nietzsche, Foucault, Deleuze. His recent books include Liberalism, Neoliberalism, Social Democracy: thin communitarian perspectives on political philosophy and education, Routledge, New York and London, 2010 and he is co-author of Education Policy: Globalisation, Citizenship, Democracy (Sage, London, 2004)

JANET SOLER is Senior Lecturer at the Open University where she chairs modules focusing on literacy difficulties and inclusive practice. She is the main editor of Transforming Practice: Critical Issues in Equity, Diversity and Education. (Stoke on Trent: Trentham Books, 2012) and Understanding Difficulties in Literacy Development: Issues and Concepts: (Sage Publications 2009).

FELICITY FLETCHER-CAMPBELL is also a Senior Lecturer at the Open University where she chairs modules on educational research and inclusive practice. She is the co-editor of the journal Educational Research and main editor of   Approaching Difficulties in Literacy Development: (Sage Publications 2009).

JULIAN (JOE) ELLIOTT is Professor and Principal of Collingwood College in the School of Education at Durham University. He has also taught in mainstream and special schools and practiced as an LEA educational psychologist. He is the co-author of Elliott, J. G., & Grigorenko, E. L. The Dyslexia Debate: (Cambridge University Press, 2014) and  Dyslexia: Developing the Debate: (Bloomsbury Publishing 2016).

This event offers a unique opportunity to interrogate the language and ideas underpinning current educational policies and practices related to dyslexia and autism. The day will be of interest to practitioners, researchers, consultants, charities and other organisations working in the field of literacy and education.

12.30 Registration, welcome, tea, coffee & biscuits
13.00 Biopower and normalisation and diversity in a neoliberal regime
Prof Mark Olssen
13.45 Media genealogies of disability: The case of dyslexia
Dr Janet Soler
14.30 Normativity and musical performance: A case study of autism
Dr Felicity Fletcher Campbell
15.15 The issues, tensions and conflicts from the perspective of psychologists and practitioners
Prof Julian Elliott (respondent)
16.00 Completion of evaluation forms
16.15 Conclusion/audience questions
16.30 Close of meeting


BERA offer a limited amount of bursaries for BERA Student Members only.

  • Bursaries are available for BERA Student Members to the value of £50 towards travel, and complimentary registration for the event.

To apply for one of these bursaries, please email with a 200 word statement on why you want to attend this event. Bursaries are offered on a first come, first served basis. Once approved you will be sent details of how to register online. Travel expenses will be reimbursed after the event in accordance with our travel policies. You must not have previously received bursary funding from BERA.