This research focuses on situating the experiences of inclusion of children with ASD and ID in Bengaluru, India. Claims and findings are attributed to primary fieldwork including ethnographic observation and semi-structured interviews with children with cognitive disabilities and their caregiver(s) at St. John’s Hospital in August and September 2023. The paper seeks to make a methodological contribution to childhood disability by employing Capability Approach as an analytical guide to ethnographic research on what inclusion means to children with cognitive disabilities, what they value and enjoy, what capabilities are valued by caregivers, and how the household creates opportunities for the development of valued capabilities. The capabilities framework is not a totalising theory for assessing the capabilities and inclusion of participants but instead, it is used as a tool to navigate the complexity of cognitively disabled children’s experiences and tack on to myriad theoretical understandings of disability and childhood. The findings reveal the evolving nature of children’s agency and capabilities, along with the evolving value placed by caregivers on different capabilities at different critical periods of development. The politics of the household meant that an alignment between caregivers and children on what is valued was associated with better outcomes, and fewer behavioural problems and higher language abilities in children themselves. The capability-constraining or enhancing influence of social institutions such as gender, age, education, healthcare and social attitudes on impairment, and how an income-using disability can exacerbate the existing income-earning handicap are discussed.

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Staveren, Irene van
Social Policy for Development (SPD)
International Institute of Social Studies

Sharath, Shravya. (2023, December 20). Navigating inclusion: Evaluating the internal and combined capabilities of children with cognitive disabilities in Bengaluru, India. Social Policy for Development (SPD). Retrieved from