“How Come Nobody Told Me?” Fostering Self-Realization Through a High School English Curriculum

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Through collaboratively designed qualitative inquiry, we investigated the responses of high school students with learning disabilities to a teacher's intervention intended to promote self realization, a fundamental component of self-determination. Activities were embedded within the general English curriculum and delivered in a special education classroom over the course of an academic year. Several themes emerged from analysis of student interviews, student responses to writing prompts and surveys, a teacher journal, and student portfolio pieces. Silence and misconceptions were prevalent in student experiences. However, through the intervention students acquired information that helped them make sense of their school experiences, redefine themselves in positive ways, and take small steps toward greater self-advocacy within their current school setting. The mediating influence of positive adult voices and concerns about social stigma were evident in students' responses, which prompted us to question teachers' and families' responsibilities for engaging young people in dialogue about special education and disability.

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