Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Acknowledging Intersectionality: An Autoethnography of a Black School Counselor Educator and Father of a Student with Autism

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Acknowledging Intersectionality: An Autoethnography of a Black School Counselor Educator and Father of a Student with Autism

Article excerpt

In this autoethnography, I present and analyze how my cultural, familial, and occupational identities intersect while navigating my relationship with my son's schoolteachers and staff. My most salient identity as a Black man, husband, and father to a Black wife and children prompt me to be acutely aware of our local public school's racial and ethnic diversity. My former job as an urban school counselor and current job as a school counselor educator who conducts about Black fathers of students with autism also influence my perspectives and questions about the district's racial and ethnic diversity. My research agenda is framed by questions about how schools engage fathers of students with autism, with an emphasis on Black and other minority fathers (Hannon, 2013, 2014, 2017).

Autoethnography is a qualitative methodology that combines the researcher's self within a particular cultural context (Ellis & Bochner, 2000) and is used to investigate specific phenomena from an insider perspective (Tullis Owen et al., 2009). It has been used to explore intersectional identities in educational contexts (Griffin, 2012; Howard, 2012) and with illness and disability (Spieldenner, 2014). The presentation of autoethnography varies (Spieldenner, 2014), but generally falls into two categories: analytic autoethnography and evocative autoethnography. Chang (2008) wrote evocative autoethnographies should be "ethnographic in its methodological orientation, cultural in its interpretive orientation, and autobiographical in its content orientation", thereby involving both storytelling and critical analysis (p. 48). My account uses evocative autoethnography because it intentionally discloses hidden details of life, highlights emotion, and illuminates how the relationship between my son's school personnel and me unfolds over a specific time period (Pace, 2012). I examine the relationship between the self (i.e., a reflexive agent, or me) and the other (i.e., established structures of sociocultural recognition, or my son's school personnel; Abbinnett, 2003; Jones, 2013) as I negotiate securing appropriate educational services required in his individualized education plan (IEP).

Located in the Literature: Autism, Black Families, and Schools

The distribution of disability is tied to the degree of social advantage when variables such as race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, and age are considered (Brault, 2012). The term autism refers to a range of more specific diagnoses on a continuum of autism spectrum disorder, ". . . characterized by severe and pervasive impairments in several areas of development that can include: reciprocal social interaction skills, communication skills, or the presence of stereotyped behavior, interests, and activities" (American Psychiatric Association, APA, 2015, p. 69).

Diagnosis rates for autism continue to increase (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, 2014) which has implications for schools. Recent data suggest 1 in 68 children in the United States are diagnosed with autism, and boys are diagnosed six times more frequently than girls (CDC, 2014). In New Jersey, where I live and work, the autism diagnosis rate is 1 in 45 children (CDC, 2014). Schools have opportunities and confront challenges in providing services to students with autism. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA; see https://sites.ed.gov/idea/ for more information) legally ensures specialized services to students with disabilities up to 21 years old. Schools leaders are actively refining ways to best serve this student population and their families in response to these trends.

School counselors have an important role in schools. Their work addresses student needs by delivering comprehensive school counseling services that support students' academic, personal/social, and career development (American School Counselor Association, ASCA, 2012). Several factors influence how families of students with autism are able to adjust to their unique needs. …

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