Get access

Broken Brains and Broken Homes: The Meaning of Special Education in an Appalachian Community


Regina Smardon is Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, University of Virginia (


In this article, I explore the meaning of disability within the everyday lives of Clear River third-grade students. The concept of a disability narrative is developed to explain how expert disability labels shape the experience of academic performance and failure. Previous studies of disability labeling have neglected the life of the label after it has become entextualized. I focus on how the layperson translates the technical language of experts into the moral language of everyday life. [labeling, special education, narrative, discourse, cultural circulation]