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Both Sides of the Table

Autoethnographies of Educators Learning and Teaching With/In [Dis]ability


Philip Smith

Both Sides of the Table is a set of evocative, heartfelt, personal, and revealing stories, told by educators about how their experiences with disability, personally and in the lives of family members, has affected their understanding of disability. It uses disability studies and critical theory lenses to understand the autoethnographies of teachers and their personal relationships with disability. The book takes a beginning look at the meaning of autoethnography as a method of inquiry, as well as how it has been (and will be) applied to exploring disability and the role of education in creating and sustaining it. The title refers to the context in which educators find themselves in Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings for students with disabilities in schools. There, educators often sit on the other side of the table from people with disabilities, their families, and their allies. In these chapters, the authors assume roles that place them, literally, on both sides of IEP tables. They inscribe new meanings – of relationships, of disability, of schools, of what it means to be an educator and a learner. It is a proposal (or perhaps a gentle manifesto) for what research, education, disability, and a utopian revolutionary politics of social transformation could and should look like.
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Chapter 10: An Open Letter to Wyatt, by Erin McCloskey


Dear Wyatt,

You have always been a mover and a shaker. You set the pace for me as my first-born, and you were always just doing, without a care in a world about who was watching or what they were thinking. You lined up toy cars, or numbered, with a marker, everything you could get your hands on. I remember cleaning out the fridge one day when you were just a tot and placing all of the bottles and jars on the kitchen table so I could wipe down the shelves. You came in the kitchen, and with eyes as wide as saucers, asked if you could get the permanent marker and number all of the jars. All of those jars and bottles and containers, just ripe for numbering. You love order and you love repetitive motions—your body like a metronome, keeping track of your inner rhythm. I can’t remember the first time someone asked me why you rock or bounce or jump, but I came to realize that it’s almost worse when they don’t ask the questions, but just look at you, and then look to me for an explanation. Waiting for me to explain, to tell them, “Oh, he has autism,” so they’ll be more comfortable, as if categorizing you and labeling you makes it easier for them to understand who you are and what you do, so that they can go about their business.

You used to bounce in your high chair;...

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