This is not a book (or even a chapter) about the inclusion of pupils and students with SLD and PMLD into mainstream education. This is an extremely interesting subject, but we do not have the space to do it justice here and so we won’t try. We do wish however to approach the topic from the dilemmatic approach, that is, recognising that there are dilemmas of difference at work and that these need to be both addressed and resolved. The term ‘dilemmas of difference’ was first coined by Martha Minnow in her studies relating to the American legal system. She succinctly placed the dilemma in perspective by asking ‘When does treating people differently emphasize their differences and stigmatize or hinder them on that basis? And when does treating people the same become insensitive to their differences and likely to stigmatize or hinder them on that basis?’ (Minow, 1990, p. 20.)

Both Minow and Brahm Norwich (the latter being someone we’ll turn to constantly in this chapter) argue that such dilemmas are driven by stigma, in that difference is directly linked to deviance (from the norm) and the danger of stigmatisation in the form of low expectations, low value and a sense of inevitability that the difference is, ultimately, insurmountable. That is, the stigma in the field of special educational needs is not necessarily in a direct form where society as a whole thinks less of someone with learning difficulties because of their difference, though this may be the view held by some individuals, but more in the form of stereotyping potential for present or future achievement as less than the norm. Weinberg and Brumback (1992) have, for example, suggested that pupils with an ADHD diagnosis will constantly use their ADHD as an excuse for their behaviour (and adults will allow them to). We have probably all overheard (or even thought ourselves) ‘Oh, he can’t do that, he’s got severe learning difficulties’, and we can see that such a dilemma is not a million miles from learned helplessness (Seligman, 1975) or the enormous potential for damage that has.