Home Institution

George Washington University

Publication Date

Fall 2008

Program Name

Brazil: Culture, Development, and Social Justice


This research project explores mothers of children with autism as social actors. I conducted the research at Casa da Esperança, which is school and therapy intstituion, and social organization, for autistics in Fortaleza, Ceará, Brazil. A group of mothers founded Casa da Esperança based on a policy of inclusiveness towards autistics and their families. Casa da Esperança’s structure reflects its collective and communal philosophy, as demonstrated by the family program. Many mothers of autistics participate in this program on a daily basis when they stay at Casa da Esperança while their children are in class. Casa da Esperança is a reaction and answer to social isolation, as both autistics and their mothers encounter social rejection. Going into this project, I wanted to investigate if and how Casa da Esperanca’s philosophy and methodology was connected to the mothers’ of autistics actions to create social change. From this I hoped to gain insight into the mode through which mothers actively worked to change society. I found that despite the social exclusion that the mothers’ described, they still enter into the public sphere in order to fulfill their roles as mothers. In this sense, the mothers become individual actors on a social level in order to provide for their children’s needs. These social actions take place through the collective context of Casa da Esperança. By empowering individual mothers to act in society, Casa da Esperança creates social change with mothers as the agents of this change.


Politics and Social Change | Special Education and Teaching


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