UW–Madison’s Mueller wins award for study of disability identity development across the lifespan

UW–Madison’s Carlyn Mueller, an assistant professor in the School of Education’s Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education, is the recipient of an Early Career Publication Award from the Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children.

Carlyn Mueller

The award recognizes an outstanding research publication by an individual within six years after completing their doctorate. Mueller was honored for her paper, “ ‘I Didn’t Know People With Disabilities Could Grow Up to Be Adults’: Disability History, Curriculum, and Identity in Special Education.”

“I am so honored and grateful to have my work recognized like this, and I hope I can create a pipeline of other disabled grad students and early career scholars in the field who can make these kinds of contributions too,” says Mueller.

Mueller’s study focuses on disability identity development across the lifespan, centering adults with disabilities’ experiences in special education. “It’s really important that we center people with disabilities as experts in special education,” explains Mueller. “We should let their experiences and perspectives drive our policies, pedagogy, and broader priorities as a field.”

Mueller adds that the adults in her study didn’t wish they had more intervention or behavioral plans in their special education experience. Instead, she says, “they wished for disabled role models and disability representation in curriculum.”

“This is an important new way of understanding the role of special education in disability identity development, and a way forward for our field to prioritize disability community and identity,” Mueller says.

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