“Listen to the Parents, Just Listen to Them” Exploring the Beliefs and Actions of Mothers Advocating for their Children with Disabilities

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Kelly Vaughan


disability studies, parenting, counter-narratives


The author describes how mothers’ experiences with and understandings of disability impact both the narratives they tell and the actions they take when advocating for their children. Through the analysis of 13 interviews of mothers who self-identify as advocates or activists, the author asserts that mothers’ understandings and experiences, as well as their social, economic, and cultural capital, influenced the advocacy efforts of parents. Many of the mothers in the study felt that their advocacy efforts on behalf of their children were successful; however, many pointed to broader critiques and hopes that challenged dominant medical/deficit narratives of disability and focused on the need for systemic change. This research is important because it centers the experiences of mothers advocating for their children and illustrates the ways in which parental counter-narrative can problematize notions of deficit and contribute to a fundamental rethinking of education practices for children with disability. 

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