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Constructing the (M)other

Narratives of Disability, Motherhood, and the Politics of «Normal»


Edited By Priya Lalvani

Constructing the (M)other is a collection of personal narratives about motherhood in the context of a society in which disability holds a stigmatized position. From multiple vantage points, these autoethnographies reveal how ableist beliefs about disability are institutionally upheld and reified. Collectively they seek to call attention to a patriarchal surveillance of mothering, challenge the trope of the good mother, and dismantle the constructed hierarchy of acceptable children. The stories contained in this volume are counter-narratives of resistance—they are the devices through which mothers push back. Rejecting notions of the otherness of their children, in these essays, mothers negotiate their identities and claim access to the category of normative motherhood. Readers are likely to experience dissonance, have their assumptions about disability challenged, and find their parameters of normalcy transformed.

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Chapter Five: Masculinity at the Orthopedic Preschool (Elizabeth A. Wheeler)


chapter 5

Masculinity at the Orthopedic Preschool

Elizabeth A. Wheeler

Once there was a paradise by the inelegant name of the Orthopedically Impaired Preschool. It didn’t look like much from the outside, just a classroom in an unused corner of a tired, brown school in Eugene, Oregon. What happened inside, however, was rare and enchanted. It was Camelot. It was “HandiLand,” the imaginary kingdom my friend Cyndi and I dreamed up: a magical place with all the features to welcome and embrace our sons, who have cerebral palsy. Funded by the state of Oregon, the Orthopedically Impaired (OI) Preschool epitomized what I call the prosthetic community—a cluster of living beings, ideas, resources, and objects that enable full inclusion. Here, our kids with disabilities mingled and learned together with children who had no diagnoses at all. The preschool’s staff members were a dream team who could troubleshoot at lightning speed. I’ve never seen people work together as well as those four did. Meg, the head teacher, was also a speech therapist, Jane was a physical therapist, Laurie was an occupational therapist, and Dianna Lee, the instructional aide, had the best lap in the world for comforting a homesick child.1 Half the students had cerebral palsy and half of them were able-bodied playmates whose families paid a minimal fee. In that classroom there was scant difference between the two groups in the activities they did or the friendships they made.

The OI preschool...

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