This presentation is based on original research findings from a qualitative, multi-perspective study interested in motherhood and fatherhood with learning difficulties. The hermeneutic study focused both on perspectives from the outside (public discourse and professionals working with parents with learning difficulties) and the experience of mothers and fathers with learning difficulties themselves. A participatory approach was used to interrelate outside perspectives with the perspectives of parents with learning difficulties.
Micro-theorizing of the empirical findings resulted in a visualized structure of the de/construction of dis/abled parenthood. The structure is based on insights into the relevance of the label of learning difficulties for being a parent and shows the de/construction of dis/abled parenthood on three levels. Roles of ableism and social intervention are highlighted through and within the structure. The three levels are to be understood as interrelational.
The top level of the structure consists of gender specific (discursive) constructions of mother- and fatherhood, dis/ability and wellbeing of the child. On this level, various discourses like law, the educational system but also everyday knowledge, produce norms and normality that drive collective action.
Those constructions lead, on the next level to a) general expectations of in/ability and b) parents with learning difficulties meeting or not meeting these expectations. Empirics highlighted the expectation of (parental) ableness from nondisabled persons whilst persons with learning difficulties were expected to be unable parents. This led to the valorization of certain attributes and the degradation of others, and thus showed the manifestation of ableism. Met as well as unmet expectations resulted into an irritation of normality. If parents didn’t met expectations of ‚normal parenthood‘, the perceived deviance irritated individualized constructions of parenting. If parents however met certain expectations, this also resulted in an irritation of normality.
Social intervention constitutes the third level of the structure, where normalization is sought to restore the irritated normality. One normalization-strategy were professional support interventions to normalize the family lives of mothers and fathers with learning difficulties. At the same time, professionals aimed to normalize the parents and to adjust them to societal expectations.
All in all, the structure of the de/construction of dis/abled parenthood highlights the efficacy of ableism through ableist constructions of disability and parenting as well as the potential to question those constructions. An unsolved problem remains the discrepancy between governmentality-critical research and social practice: Even if formal support is provided in a way that ensures parents’ self-determination, social practice reproduces the binary of dis/ability.