What’s Wrong with ‘Special’? Thinking Differently in New Zealand Teacher Education About Disabled Children and Their Lives

  • Gill Rutherford
  • Jude MacArthur


  1. 1.

    The ideology and discourse of ‘special education’ can still be found in thinking, policy and practice in education despite almost 50 years of critique in relation to the arbitrary nature of the term and its negative impact on disabled children and young people.

  2. 2.

    Neoliberal ideologies and the rationalization of some teacher education programmes mean that disability can be left out of discussions in teacher education about social justice.

  3. 3.

    Initial teacher education (ITE) and postgraduate (PG) teacher education programmes can be designed and taught in ways that interrupt students’ received truths, and trouble normative thinking and deficit ideologies inherent in ‘special’ education.

  4. 4.

    Teacher education programmes that work at the nexus of disability studies and childhood studies can support students to challenge ideas about ‘special’ and uphold children’s agency, competence and rights as a foundation for teaching and learning.

  5. 5.

    Inclusive pedagogies and approaches such as Learning Without Limits (LWL) and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) turn teachers’ attention to the use of teaching approaches that are designed for all students.




Gill and Jude: We wish to acknowledge the thoughtful work of our students. We value your contributions, and we celebrate the good work you are doing in school communities. Thank you for your contribution to this chapter. We learn from you.

Jude: I wish to acknowledge the hard work and support of the staff at Massey University and the University of Canterbury who have developed and/or teach on the Postgraduate Diploma in Specialist Teaching. In particular, Associate Professors Mandia Mentis and Alison Kearney, Wendy. Holley-Boen and Dr Laurie McLay who have developed content in the area of ‘complex educational needs’ with me. You all sit behind part of this work.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gill Rutherford
    • 1
  • Jude MacArthur
    • 2
  1. 1.University of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand
  2. 2.Massey UniversityPalmerston NorthNew Zealand

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