Questioning Privilege from within the Special Education Process

Heather Powers Albanesi, Janet Sauer


This paper provides an analysis of how privilege functions in the negotiation of the rights and accommodations for children with disabilities. As white educated mothers, we examined how parents with race and class privilege are positioned in the interaction with schools, and how the structure of that interaction reinforces and reproduces inequity. The first process we consider is how parents with privilege are encouraged and expected to pursue the individualized strategy (i.e. ‘save my son’) over collective strategies (i.e. how do we equitably address the needs of all children with disabilities).  The second process we consider is how parents are pushed to accept the rehabilitative approach over an approach which questions the construction of ‘disability’ and the range of possible institutional responses to it. Finally, from a Disability Studies theoretical framework, we question how our participation in these two processes helps reproduce the existing structures of inequality. Drawing on the work of Ong-Dean (2009) and Skrtic (2003; 2011) we examine how our privilege is implicated in the way we interact with schools and how schools happily co-opt that privilege.


Disability, Privilege, Education, Parenting

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