Lauran Doak

Researching how children with learning disabilities who have minimal speech communicate and connect with others at home, school and other everyday settings.

Research Projects

How is national education policy received in special schools? (2023-2024)
Anyone who follows special school leaders, teachers and families on social media will know how much frustration there is around the perceived ir/relevance of national education policy in England. Policy produced by the DfE, ostensibly applicable (even statutory) for all schools in England often seems written with mainstream settings in mind and is very difficult to operationalise in a special school setting. However, there is a dearth of research literature highlighting this issue.

In 2023 I launched a research project with this article in Schools Week inviting special school headteachers to share their experiences of implementing national education policy. Each headteacher was invited to identify three policy documents which will form the basis of their interview. We then discussed the nature of the implementation difficulties in their setting, the extra labour involved in devising 'workarounds' for ill-fitting policy, and headteachers' recommendations for writing more helpful and inclusive education policy.  The initial research report from this project is now available here and Schools Week coverage of the project findings is here. I was also interviewed by Notts TV about the project, which can be watched here (from 5:40).
iPad StoryWriting Project (2019-2024)
In 2019 I was awarded funding by the UK Literacy Association to lead a project investigating how children with learning disabilities engage with an iPad storymaking App, Pictello. Given my interest in families and home interaction, I chose to give the iPads to families rather than schools and collected data - home videos, diaries, interviews and story collection - over twelve weeks.

The first academic output was this article in Pedagogy, Culture & Society. The paper, which was based on my opening interviews with families, used discourse analysis to examine parental constructions of 'literacy' for children who are not considered likely to read or write independently.

The second academic output is this article examining the meaning of 'authorship' for young people with severe or profound and multiple learning disabilities. It proposes a model of 'distributed authorship' which allows us to view young people as co-authors of their iPad stories even where their contribution is embodied reactions to prior events which are incorporated into the story.

The final article from this project examines the significance of shared reading in everyday family life for disabled children, using the sociological lens of 'family practices' (Morgan 1996). The article argues that family shared reading is often viewed instrumentally as a stepping stone to the acquisition of independent reading, but for young people with learning disabilities shared reading extends far beyond the early years. It also serves a wide range of purposes which are not instrumental - for example, inclusion in family practices such as book-gifting at Christmas, involvement of siblings in writing personalised stories, and emotional regulation through repetition of a familiar story. These findings point to the limitations of viewing shared reading as a developmental stepping stone, instead emphasising the interpersonal, embodied and affective dimensions of the practice.

Additionally, I wrote two articles which are more accessible for a wider audience including families and educators. Firstly, this article in PMLD Link examines how the two participants with PMLD (Profound & Multiple Learning Disabilities) engaged with the Pictello App and suggested top tips for engaging such learners with digital storymaking.  The second article in SEN Magazine provided an overview of how all participants engaged with the App in different ways, illustrating the versatility of the App for a range of different learning disabilities. 

This study is now complete.

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