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Journal Article

Overcoming Obstacles: African American Students with Disabilities Achieving Academic Success

Brandy T. Gatlin and Cynthia L. Wilson
The Journal of Negro Education
Vol. 85, No. 2, The 36th Annual Charles H. Thompson Lecture: Why Black Lives (and Minds) Matter: Race, Freedom Schools & the Quest for Educational Equity (Spring 2016), pp. 129-142
DOI: 10.7709/jnegroeducation.85.2.0129
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Page Count: 14
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Overcoming Obstacles: African American Students with Disabilities Achieving Academic Success
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Concerns regarding the overrepresentation of minority groups, particularly African Americans, in special education date back many years. While practices such as culturally responsive teaching and response to intervention have been implemented to combat the erroneous placement of students in special education programs, an important focus that remains is the academic progress and postsecondary outcomes for African American students placed in special education programs. To increase the number of African American students with disabilities (SWDs) who successfully pursue postsecondary education at the college or university level, taking a step back and focusing on factors that have led to the success of school-aged African American SWDs is important. In an attempt to counter the vast amount of negative information found in current literature regarding African Americans in special education, this study highlights two African American high school SWDs who have demonstrated academic success. Teachers who work closely with the students, the parents of the two students, and the students themselves were interviewed and observed to gain insight about factors they attribute to each student’s academic success. Upon transcribing and analyzing interview data, three key themes emerged: (a) expectations, (b) support, and (c) organization. This article discusses these findings and also describes other noteworthy findings, including a spirit of teamwork among the individuals and the practice of inclusion as an important factor in each student’s academic success. Finally, the authors discuss limitations of the study along with implications for future research and practice.

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