Original Research

The practice of partnerships: A case study of the Disabled Children’s Action Group, South Africa

Susan C. Philpott, Nithi Muthukrishna
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 9, No 1 | a729 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v9i1.729 | © 2019 Susan C. Philpott, Nithi Muthukrishna | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 December 2018 | Published: 22 October 2019

About the author(s)

Susan C. Philpott, School of Education, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Nithi Muthukrishna, School of Education, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

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Background: Children with disabilities stand to gain from an array of services and interventions to support their development. However, relationships between parents of children with disabilities and professionals can be fraught, with the potential that professionals undermine the role of parents and overlook their agency.

Aim: The aim of this study was to examine the nature of partnerships between parents of children with disabilities and professionals in the Early Childhood Development (ECD) sector, and the influences that shape partnerships within a particular context.

Setting: This article documents the experiences of parents of children with disabilities from a national organisation, in respect of their partnerships with professionals.

Methods: The research was a qualitative case study of a national organisation of parents of disabled children, the Disabled Children’s Action Group (DICAG), that has engaged in many different partnerships within different provinces of South Africa. Data generation techniques were document analysis and focus group discussion with staff and provincial branch members of the national DICAG office in Cape Town.

Results: The findings of the study provide a nuanced and contextually situated understanding of the complexity of parent–professional partnerships in the disability sector. A key issue that emerges is that to recognise and disrupt pervasive dominant discourses and their potential to weaken partnerships, professionals need to critically attune themselves to the situated experiences of those whom they seek to support.

Conclusion: The findings suggest that there is a need for a rights-based social justice agenda to underpin parent–professional relationships, to address the power dynamics and pervasive discourses that oppress the parent actors.


parent–professional partnerships; children with disabilities; parents; disability; partnerships


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