Battle Fatigue: Parents, Institutionalized Ableism, and the “Fight” for Inclusive Education

Priya Lalvani, Eileen Osieja

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This qualitative study examined the experiences of parents who sought inclusive education for their children with intellectual disabilities or extensive support needs. Data were collected from 33 participants in the form of narratives that emerged through semi-structured interviews and analyzed using a phenomenological methodology. Findings revealed the existence of problematic special education practices and illuminated the mechanisms through which ability-based segregation in schools is institutionally sanctioned. Many parents reported that placement in a general education environment with the provision of support was not considered by professionals at their children’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings. Instead, they were informed that education in separate classrooms was in their children’s best interest. Parents pushed back and advocated for access and inclusivity, often investing immense amounts of time and resources toward this end. The findings shed light on special education discourses that are entrenched in ableist notions about disability and uphold an implicit ideology of separate but equal for students with certain disabilities.


  • inclusive education
  • institutionalized ableism
  • parent advocacy


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