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Les Enfants Perdus

Asylum Reform, Parents’ Groups, and Disability Rights in France, 1968–1975

Jonathyne Briggs

Abstract

Following the deaths of fourteen children at a children's residential facility in Froissy in November 1968, a moment of national interest in France in the challenges facing disabled children led parents’ associations to press for systemic reform. Concomitantly, social critiques following the protests of May 1968 focused on poor institutional conditions as evidence of society's failures. Though government inquiry into the incident placed the blame on the proprietors, media reports and advocates asserted the failure of the French government to protect the disabled. This viewpoint aligned with the rhetoric of reformers seeking to dismantle institutions to instigate social change. However, an alliance of reformers and parents’ groups did not materialize, even after the important reforms of the law of 30 June 1975. That law articulated the government's commitment to the equality of disabled citizens, but it had limited impact due to its failure to address conditions for the mentally disabled.

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Reinventing Play

Autistic Children and the Normativity of Play in Postwar France

Jonathyne Briggs

Abstract

In postwar France, the definition of play helped to situate the meaning of childhood in a manner that marginalized disabled children from the common understanding of childhood. Three thinkers—Françoise Dolto, Maud Mannoni, and Fernand Deligny—all advocated more nuanced and open definitions of play that allowed for the recognition of disabled children's forms of play, which often operated outside of social norms. In their practices, each of these thinkers articulated new interpretations of play that expanded its meaning in social and therapeutic contexts. This recognition was important in questioning the isolation of disabled children, in identifying their belonging among other children, and in revealing the changing boundaries of definitions of childhood.