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Although intellectual disability is a culturally defined and often fluid concept, individuals with this label are often at the greatest risk of isolation and low expectations, particularly within school environments. Despite institutional narratives on educating and raising expectations for “all” students, the use of alternate curricula for individuals with intellectual disabilities creates a structural barrier that explicitly designates students as incapable of using the same curriculum as nondisabled peers. Through exemplars in the United States and Sweden, the authors argue the use and expansion of alternate curricula is an international trend with troubling short- and long-term consequences for students. In Sweden, a national alternative curriculum is required for all students with intellectual disabilities. In the United States, adoption of alternate achievement standards varies by state; yet, the use of alternate curricular materials in self-contained classrooms is widespread despite questionable alignment to general education standards. In addition to the challenges posed by a separate curriculum for students with intellectual disabilities, approaches to promoting authentic engagement and learning in the context of general education settings and curricula are discussed.
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