Expanding Preservice Teachers’ Conceptions about Disability Through Young Adult Literature


  • Lauren Zepp University of Wisconsin - Madison
  • Carlyn Mueller University of Wisconsin - Madison
  • Melinda Leko University of Wisconsin - Madison




teacher preparation, disability, ableism, young adult literature, disability studies


This article provides information and resources to help special education teacher educators improve preservice teachers’ competence for working with disabled1 students and addressing ableism in their classrooms, by incorporating young adult (YA) literature into special education teacher preparation experiences. Embedding YA literature with representations of disability can address ableism in education by helping preservice special education teachers to conceptualize disabled adolescents differently. Current approaches to teacher education may reinforce dysconscious ableism (Broderick & Lalvani, 2017) and undergird educational segregation on the basis of disability. After reviewing current literature on addressing ableism during teacher preparation and using YA literature in teacher education, this article models how special education teacher educators can critically examine YA texts by providing criteria for evaluating representations of disability and a unit plan with three lessons for use in an introductory special education course. A bibliography of young adult books featuring characters with disabilities is also provided.


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Author Biographies

Carlyn Mueller, University of Wisconsin - Madison

Assistant Professor, Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education

Melinda Leko, University of Wisconsin - Madison

Professor, Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education





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