Term of Award

Summer 2021

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Curriculum Studies (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


College of Education

Committee Chair

Ming Fang He

Committee Member 1

Daniel Chapman

Committee Member 2

Peggy Shannon-Baker

Committee Member 3

Nirmala Erevelles

Committee Member 3 Email



This is an inquiry into the educational experience of students with dis/abilities who are excluded from the general education classroom in one rural Georgia school district. Theoretically my dissertation research builds on critical disability studies (Erevelles 2000, 2002, 2005, 2015; also Annamma 2018; Tremain 2005), critical geography (Harvey 2000; Helfenbein, Jr. 2004; Soja 1989, 2010), and curriculum studies (Maudlin 2008; Snowber 2016; Springgay & Freedman 2008; Swanson 2008). Methodologically building on counternarrative inquiry (Bell 1999; Delgado 1989; He & Ayers 2009; He & Ross 2015; He, Ross, & Seay 2015; Solórzano & Yosso 2002), art-based research (Barone & Eisner 2006; Coles 1992; also Bae-Dimitriadis 2020), and those conducting research with children with dis/abilities (Aslamazova, Yurina Kochendova & Krasnova 2016; Søndergaard & Reventlow 2019; Jenkin, Wilson, Murfitt, Clarke, Campain, & Stockman, 2015; Maxwell 2006), I explore the counternarratives of three students with significant dis/abilities, Kara, Alvin, and Derek, to counter master narratives, which devalue, dehumanize, and disenfranchise them. I propose an embodied curriculum within a beloved community (hooks, 1996) and infused with a pedagogy of heart (Freire, 1997) as a replacement to the current curriculum of exclusion and despair. Six findings have emerged from my dissertation research: (1) When conducting research with students with dis/abilities, researchers must create a safe and welcoming space in which their confidentiality is protected, and their stories are told through a comfortable medium. (2) Arts-based research transgresses traditional dissertation inquiries to tell the silenced narrative of students with dis/abilities and liberate their voice from the constraints of ableism. (3) Counternarratives empower children with dis/abilities to share valuable insights into their educational experience and speak against the master-narrative of ableism and privilege that often disenfranchises and dehumanizes them as deficient and inferior and failures. (4) Exclusion in education damages the sense of worth and belonging of students with dis/abilities, furthers their marginalization, and sabotages their potential in school and life. (5) There is a demand to engender an embodied curriculum within a beloved community and infused with a pedagogy of heart that disrupts the ableism inherent in dominant educational structures, practices, and policies for students with intellectual dis/abilities which prevent them from reaching graduation and thriving in life. (6) Instead of imprisoning the bodies and minds of students with dis/abilities, educators must work with other educational workers such as teachers, administrators, educational staff, parents, students, community workers, and policy makers to develop a culturally relevant pedagogy of caring and justice, cultivate a culturally inspiring school environment, and create hopes, dreams, and equal opportunities for students with dis/abilities and all others to reach their highest potential (Siddle-Walker, 1996).

OCLC Number


Research Data and Supplementary Material