Harvard Educational Review
  1. Spring 2015 Issue »

    At the End of Intellectual Disability

    CHRISTOPHER KLIEWER, DOUGLAS BIKLEN, AND AMY J. PETERSEN
    In this essay, Christopher Kliewer, Douglas Biklen, and Amy J. Petersen unravel the construct of intellectual disability that has dominated both policy and practice in schools and communities. The authors synthesize data from first-person narratives, family accounts, and participatory inquiry to propose a theory of human connectedness in which intellectual competence is constructed through social action and interaction. The authors trace the isolating, brutalizing, and dehumanizing consequences of the presumed “nothingness” associated with those labeled as having an intellectual disability and, by way of contrast, integrate written and video data that offer counterpoints to the notion of intellect as immutable and individual. The authors discuss the development of supports in valued arenas where the right to belong and to participate is realized without question; the provision of resources and materials based on affirmation, actualization, and empowerment; and the fostering of surrounding communities comprised of committed individuals who have stepped apart from deficit ideology and who are open to self-critique, surprise, and learning. The authors propose that in these contexts is found the end of intellectual disability.

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    Christopher Kliewer is a professor of disability studies in the Department of Special Education at the University of Northern Iowa, where he focuses on a range of issues associated with inclusive education, literacy for all, and social justice in schools. His inquiry, including qualitative studies of literacy development for young children with significant disabilities, has appeared previously in the Harvard Educational Review and in journals such as Teachers College Record and the American Educational Research Journal.

    Douglas Biklen is Dean Emeritus of the School of Education at Syracuse University and founder of the Institute on Communication and Inclusion. He has written widely on issues related to inclusive education, communication, and disability rights. He is the author of Autism and the Myth of the Person Alone (NYU Press, 2005), Schooling Without Labels (Temple University Press, 1992), and Achieving the Complete School (Teachers College Press, 1985), as well as other books. His articles have appeared in the Harvard Educational Review, American Education Research Journal, Teachers College Record, Mental Retardation, International Journal of Inclusive Education, Journal of Social Issues, Disability and Society, and Topics in Language Disorders, among other journals. Biklen was the coproducer of the Academy Award–nominated documentary Autism Is a World (2004); producer and director, with Zach Rossetti, of My Classic Life as an Artist (2004); and producer, with Gerardine Wurzburg, of Wretches and Jabberers (2010).

    Amy J. Petersen is an associate professor in the College of Education at the University of Northern Iowa, where she works with preservice teachers, educators, and families to ensure that students with disabilities have access to an inclusive and equitable education. Her research focuses on inclusive education, disability studies, low incidence disability, intersectionality, and qualitative research methodologies. Petersen’s work has been published in Disability and Society, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, and Equity and Excellence in Education.
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    Spring 2015 Issue

    Abstracts

    At the End of Intellectual Disability
    CHRISTOPHER KLIEWER, DOUGLAS BIKLEN, AND AMY J. PETERSEN
    Ethical and Professional Norms in Community-Based Research
    GERALD CAMPANO, MARÍA PAULA GHISO, AND BETHANY J. WELCH
    Lead Policy and Academic Performance
    Insights from Massachusetts
    JESSICA WOLPAW REYES
    Education and the Production of Diasporic Citizens in El Salvador
    ANDREA DYRNESS AND ENRIQUE SEPÚLVEDA III

    Book Notes

    Our School
    Sam Chaltain

    Laboratory of Learning
    Sharon Gay Pierson

    The Quest for Mastery
    Sam M. Intrator and Don Siegel