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Confessions of a Mad Professor: An Autoethnographic Consideration of Neuroatypicality, Extranormativity, and Education


by Peter Smagorinsky - 2011

Background/Context: This article considers issues related to the intersection of mental health and education. Typically, in both educational and noneducational settings, atypical mental health conditions are described and treated as “disorders.” The author challenges conventional understandings of mental health and how to address it, particularly in school settings.

Purpose: The argument in this article is designed to make a case for greater understanding of extranormal mental health makeups and reconsider current understandings of normalcy. Focusing in particular on the experience of living with Asperger’s syndrome, this article orchestrates narrative data and prior scholarship to argue that conventional notions of normalcy require reconsideration as more is understood about the spectrum of possible makeups in broad and diverse populations. The author argues that notions of normalcy are social constructions and that reconstructions of conventional notions of normalcy could provide more inclusive settings for a wider range of people.

Research Design: This article employs a version of narrative inquiry, autoethnography, to explore issues related to the intersection of mental health and education. The author describes, reflects on, and interprets a body of experiential knowledge both to illuminate the experience of living with an extranormative mental health makeup and consider the degree to which it serves as a deficit or disorder, as is commonly presumed. These experiences are placed in the context of empirical data from other studies to frame an argument regarding the spectrum of neurological makeups and its place in efforts toward inclusive and multicultural education.

Conclusions/Recommendations: The article closes with an argument for constructing contexts for supporting, understanding, appreciating, and respecting a wider range of neurological conditions in school settings.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 113 Number 8, 2011, p. 1701-1732
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16163, Date Accessed: 10/16/2019 3:56:42 PM

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About the Author
  • Peter Smagorinsky
    University of Georgia
    E-mail Author
    PETER SMAGORINSKY teaches in the program in English Education at the University of Georgia. His research for the most part takes a Vygotskian perspective on literacy education and teachers’ concept development. In its May 2010 issue, Research in the Teaching of English published his coauthored study, “Bullshit in Academic Writing: A Protocol Analysis of a High School Senior’s Process of Interpreting Much Ado About Nothing.”
 
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