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Dismantling the Disabling Environments of Education

Creating New Cultures and Contexts for Accommodating Difference

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Edited By Peter Smagorinsky, Joseph Tobin and Kyunghwa Lee

Dismantling the Disabling Environments of Education: Creating New Cultures and Contexts for Accommodating Difference challenges assumptions that view people of difference to be "abnormal," that isolate attention to their difference solely in the individual, that treat areas of difference as matters of deficiency, and that separate youth of difference from the mainstream and treat them as pathologized. As outsiders to mainstream special education, the authors of this collection take a more social and cultural perspective that views the surrounding social environment as at least as problematic as any point of difference in any individual. Most of the scholars contributing to this volume work with preservice and inservice teachers and grapple with issues of curriculum and pedagogy. One of the primary audiences we hope to reach with this book is our colleagues and practitioners who have not made special education or disability studies the focus of their careers, but who, like we, are determined to engage with the full range of people who attend schools. Dismantling the Disabling Environments of Education: Creating New Cultures and Contexts for Accommodating Difference can be a valuable text for undergraduate and graduate courses in teacher education, as it addresses key issues of inclusion, diversity, equity, and differentiated approaches to educating the full range of students.

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Chapter Eight: Negotiating the Culture of Expertise: Experiences of Families of Children with Mild Autism and Other Sensory/Behavioral Differences (Melissa Sherfinski / Sera Mathew)

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CHAPTER EIGHT

Negotiating the Culture of Expertise

Experiences of Families of Children with Mild Autism and Other Sensory/Behavioral Differences

MELISSA SHERFINSKI AND SERA MATHEW



High-stakes testing and the intensification of schooling over the past decade have formed a “culture of expertise” (Novinger, O’ Brien, & Sweigman, 2005) in which the knowledge of many experts is needed to develop the competencies in children that are recognized in high stakes schooling. The culture of expertise is fueled by an increasingly globalized orientation toward testing and accountability driven by international competition (Apple, Kenway, & Singh, 2005). The culture of expertise affects relationships between homes and schools. The potential democratic nature of schooling that incorporates the participation of children, teachers, and parents has become co-opted (Dahlberg, Moss, & Pence, 2007). Structures, roles, and practices for schools, teachers, families, and children have shifted, and this change has affected children and families who are marginalized: those on the “borders” of education. In this essay, the borders we explore are the experiences of families of young children (preschool-elementary) with mild autism and other sensory/behavioral differences.

Families of children with mild autism and other sensory/behavioral differences must continually negotiate educational culture and (re)make their identities in the process. We focus on families of children who identify with diagnoses of and/or evaluation for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) presenting in its “milder” forms, Asperger’s syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), sensory disorders, and other related...

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