In this essay, Christopher Kliewer, Douglas Biklen, and Amy J. Petersen unravel the construct of intellectual disability that has dominated both policy and practice in schools and communities. The authors synthesize data from first-person narratives, family accounts, and participatory inquiry to propose a theory of human connectedness in which intellectual competence is constructed through social action and interaction. The authors trace the isolating, brutalizing, and dehumanizing consequences of the presumed “nothingness” associated with those labeled as having an intellectual disability and, by way of contrast, integrate written and video data that offer counterpoints to the notion of intellect as immutable and individual. The authors discuss the development of supports in valued arenas where the right to belong and to participate is realized without question; the provision of resources and materials based on affirmation, actualization, and empowerment; and the fostering of surrounding communities comprised of committed individuals who have stepped apart from deficit ideology and who are open to self-critique, surprise, and learning. The authors propose that in these contexts is found the end of intellectual disability.
Christopher Kliewer: At the End of Intellectual Disability