Date of Award

May 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Leadership


Christine E. Ashby


Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), Autism, Communication, Disability Studies in Education, Inclusion, Narrative Inquiry

Subject Categories



This dissertation chronicles the experiences of five high school students with autism who type to communicate as they navigate the terrain of high school, adolescence, and identity through collaboration and dialogue with one another, their school support team, and the inquirer (researcher). This study employs a multilayered approach to narrative inquiry to unravel and (re)present the students’ (co-inquirers) individual and collective stories as constructed through observation, performance, dialogue, and art. While acknowledging the importance of families and school personnel, the students’ storied lives and perspectives—as well their participation in constructing the inquiry process—are foregrounded to supplement research dominated by adult, and/or spoken voices. Grounded in a disability studies in education framework, this work traverses the institutional, performative, and dialogic landscapes that the students help to shape (and are shaped by) to reveal the complex interplay between diverse ways of being and communicating, dominant discourses of normativity, and resistance through advocacy, inclusion, and research. The reader is invited to follow along as the students cultivate community through (inter)action grounded in shared experience, inclusive educational contexts, and emerging ownership of their situated identities as individuals with autism who communicate in diverse ways. They/we feel compelled—by default and/or design—to put these perspectives and stories into the world as counter-narrative(s). In both content and form, the (re)presentations emerging within/out of this inquiry start a conversation about the constraints of research and inclusion understood solely as practice, advocating for a broadened conception of both as co-constructed, relational experiences.


Open Access

Included in

Education Commons