Biomedical Approaches to Literacy: Two Curriculum Teachers Challenge the Treatment of Dis/Ability in Contemporary Early Literacy Education

Rachel Heydon, Luigi Iannacci


This paper is a critical examination of the state of Canadian literacy education and research and its effects on young children. Its purpose is to appraise the ways in which disability is currently being produced and practiced in early school curricula and to argue for a theoretically rich curricula which begins from children’s strengths. To accomplish these goals, this paper commences with a brief appraisal of curriculum studies’ lack of attention to issues of dis/ability, considers major movements in literacy curricula, then contends that an innovation in literacy curricula the authors term, “the biomedical approach”, is pathologizing entire school populations and inflicting upon them reductionistic literacy curricula. This paper illustrates the biomedical approach through a narrative of a public school and the experiences of its early years staff and students.

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