• Katrine Marie Fleischer Vinther
4. term, Sociology, Master (Master Programme)
This sociological master thesis is motivated by the high prevalence of loneliness amongst students with special educational needs (SEN). With the employment of a qualitative case study of a boarding school for students with SEN, the study aims to explore how the students experience loneliness and how the students and the school staff handle loneliness.

By using Skype as a research tool I conducted three semi-structured interviews with two teachers and the pedagogical head of the department. A focus group interview with five students was conducted at the school. The investigation was conducted with the use of methodological situationisme and symbolic interactionism, which created attention towards the social interactions and situations, that the students and staff applied meaning to. By using the logic of Herbert Blumers sensitizing concepts, I used the theoretical frame as guidance in forming the interview guides as well as in the analysis. Robert S. Weiss distinction between social and emotional loneliness along with Linda A. Wood’s perspective on loneliness as failed intersubjectivity contributes to the understanding and conceptualization of loneliness. I apply Aksel Tjoras constructivist-interactionistic perspective on community and Zygmunt Bauman’s understanding of the terms of community. To gain close knowledge of the inclusion- and exclusion mechanism I apply Richard Jenkins understanding of group identification and categorisation along with Erving Goffman’s theory of Stigma. I as well discuss the results in the light of Axel Honneths theory of recognition.

The study showed that the students experience loneliness as a result of a distinctly normative practise of social exclusion, bullying and failed intersubjectivity with their peers in the Danish primary school. I interpret that as a result of social defeat, stigmatisation and lack of recognition, the students are placed in what I characterize as the chains of distrust. These chains are loosened when the students are enrolled in what I name the pedagogy of necessity at the boarding school and throughout the achievement of meaningful social relations with other SEN students. The pedagogy of necessity consists of strategies, which acknowledges the students feelings and teaches the students how to engage in a community. This facilitates that many of the students attains a feeling of community and social belonging for the first time. However, the students also engage in so-called passing strategies, whereas they avoid the potential association with those students who are perceived as lonely. Furthermore, I advocate that future research draws attention to structural discrimination. I also claim that further attention should be paid to the complexities of the social and educational practices on boarding schools that enables communities and reduces loneliness for students with SEN.
Publication date27 May 2020
Number of pages76
External collaboratorDybbøl efterskole
no name vbn@aub.aau.dk
ID: 333034393