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Both Sides of the Table

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


Edited By 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 9: Picture This: Snapshots of My (A)typical Family, by David Connor



When asked to identify a person with a disability who has influenced my understanding of disability, I am hard pressed to pin this on one individual. Instead, I think of many family members, a cast of characters who have managed their “differences” over time, integrating them into their own daily life and the lives of others in our family. In this chapter I share my own perceptions of this ensemble cast and I posit that readers will likely have a similar experience when reflecting upon their own extended families.

In the modern classic documentary Including Samuel (Habib, 2008), Douglas Biklen, Dean of the School of Education at Syracuse University, ponders the question “Is there any place within this society where inclusion exists ‘full blown’?” He concludes, “The answer is yes. It exists within a lot of families.” His response is plain and simple, so much so that we forget how much families include their children with disabilities by necessity, and in doing so, become creative, flexible, accommodating people in general, while learning about particular bodily and psychological differences. In brief, disabilities or differences are usually normalized within families. It therefore follows, though it is not usually recognized, that families who have members with a disability can serve as examples to our larger society—illuminating ways in which everyone can be included. In particular, the education system has much to learn from how families view children with disabilities and integrate them into all aspects of daily...

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