Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Curriculum & Instruction

First Advisor

Dr. Elena Venegas

Second Advisor

Dr. Miryam Espinosa-Dulanto

Third Advisor

Dr. Steve Chamberlain


Individuals with disabilities have been subjected to deficit models that have led to unfair treatment, exclusion, and an unfitting education for years. Historical factors have informed policies toward the educational treatment and rights of individuals with disabilities in the United States since the 1600s. Before the enactment of The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA) in 1975, it was common practice for children with disabilities to be segregated, excluded, and given an unsuitable education in comparison to their nondisabled counterparts. Throughout history, the language used in legislation and educational documents have compartmentalized students with disabilities based on their abilities; thus, minoritizing their disability in the educational setting and disadvantaging them in the process.

Individuals with disabilities are often minoritized by the policies enacted at the federal, state, and district level. The top-down approach informs the education and curriculum enacted in the classroom. This study focused on the language of the (a) Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (2204), (b) Texas Administrative Code 19 (TAC 19), Chapter 89, Subchapter AA (2021), and a (c) suburban district-level special education operating guidelines and English language arts and reading (ELAR) curriculum for Grades 3-5, to explore what discourse themes can be interpreted from the language within federal- and state-level legislation and district ivpolicies and curriculum for students with “invisible disabilities” such as specific learning disabilities (SLD) in reading. This study was a Discourse analysis of special education federal and state legislation, and district guidelines and ELAR curriculum using a DisCrit lens. The analysis focused on portions of the policies pertaining to SLD. Although the language in the policies reflect a positive approach of high expectations and education equity for students with disabilities, the findings suggest there is a disconnect between the language used in special education policies and the practices employed in local education settings. Thus, students with “invisible disabilities” such as SLD may be disadvantaged and be further marginalized by the language and the dichotomies of ability, normalcy, and standardization conveyed in legislature.


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