Why do I believe that social exclusion is an action (person A excludes person B, as opposed to person B choosing to be excluded)?
Mainly because no child sets out to be excluded. A lot of children prefer their own company and to work alone rather than in groups, but they don't set out for the world of social exclusion.
Let me describe what I mean by social exclusion in this context. This picture will be well understood by People with Alternative Learning Styles.
Tom is 13. He's a lively young man who loves sport and has a great sense of fun. He has a wicked sense of humour and laughs a lot. He enjoys playing games on the Xbox, and spending family time watching movies or playing chess, draughts or Monopoly. He is of average intelligence and enjoys reading and history. He can stand his own with adults debating about topics of interest such as the World Wars or environmental issues. At every parents' evening, all his teachers comment on what a lovely lad he is, the only boy who greets them when he arrives for class and wishes them a good day when he leaves. They all say that he needs to improve his social skills and to work better in teams.
He is currently not in school as he is suffering from a stress disorder. He describes all the children at his school as being 'mean and barbaric'. They swear, leave the toilets in a complete mess, they tease him, bully him, deliberately make the noises that his sensitivities cannot cope with. It is a nice school scoring Good in Ofsted with ‘kindness’ in its school motto.
He has completely lost faith with all adults in the school as they have serially let him down and not protected him. Before his illness became too much, he would spend his lunch times locked in a toilet as being the only safe place that he could find. His parents got an email from school one day (in fact for different reasons it was every day) "One child called Tom 'gay' today and I am writing to let you know that this is completely unacceptable and that we have spoken to that child's parents who were horrified and we have severely sanctioned the child." His parents spoke to Tom to reassure him that this was being dealt with. Tom looked at them with a 'get real' expression on his face. "They call me that ten to twenty times a day."
Tom is registered disabled as he has a diagnosis of autism and other conditions. Although you wouldn’t know to look at him.
His autism certainly 'prevents him from living a full, normal, life or from holding a gainful job' and so by definition he is disabled. But he is only disabled due to the acts of others. The intolerance of difference, the ignorance of the way his mind works, and the persistence that the only solution for him is to 'fit' with mainstream society and values - even if those values are worse than his own. He doesn't swear, cheat, lie or steal, and won't deliberately hurt another. If he accidentally hurts someone he will apologise and he forgives immediately if an apology is offered to him.
The professionals are worried that he doesn't become permanently socially excluded. In other words, he needs to return to the circumstances that got him into this situation When asked by professionals what would help him get back into school he is very clear. 'Get rid of all the other children'. And therein lies the problem. The only thing that will provide relief for his disability is the removal of the effects of others. The effects of those normal children that he is supposed to be like.
Tom came into his dad's office.
"Dad, something bad happened on the Xbox"
Panic. Immediate thoughts of grooming, or cyber-bullying. Although Tom doesn't look too distraught.
"What happened, Tom?"
"Well I was playing Minecraft mini-games with a bunch of kids, and I was doing really well. I was having a great time and won one game. The other kids in the game took a vote and they kicked me from the party."
Relief that it wasn't worse, but how to respond.
"That's good, Tom."
"It is? How?"
"Because you wouldn't want to play with idiots who would do such a thing."
"You are right, Dad. Thanks."
Social exclusion is the result of a thousand Minecraft mini-games. The acts of exclusion are performed through ignorance (rather than malice) by other children, teachers, family members and even, sometimes, parents.