Student Profile: Sunghee Choi works for more inclusive education

Tuesday, December 8, 2020
Sunghee Choi

Sunghee Choi is a doctoral student in the Department of Education working with Dr. Diana Arya and Dr. Andrew Maul. After being away from school for a long time, she received her M.A in education from UCSB. As a mother of a 12-year-old autistic son, her research interests are how to define autism, how to develop more ethical and fair autistic assessments by incorporating autistic people’s voices, and how to promote more inclusive education with UDL, rejecting ABA.

GGSE: How have you been spending time since the campus shutdown?

Choi: My life has not drastically changed since COVID. Even before COVID, I hardly went outside after 3 pm when my son comes back from school. Unfortunately, we were not able to travel during summer. Instead, I’ve definitely spent more time on social media and Zoom and started to enjoy working out at home.

GGSE: How has being a parent affected your perspective on education as a field of study? How has it informed your research?

Choi: I do not think being a parent itself changed my perspective on education. Even before I became a parent, I did not support any teaching methods that do not take into account individual differences and contexts. I had a strong aversion to any efforts that make students conform to certain norms to easily manage them in institutional systems. Instead, the experience of being a parent of an autistic child brought my attention to certain topics that I had not previously been interested in. The biggest topic would be autism and disability. More specifically, as I am a parent, I’m more interested in the adult life of autistic people, inclusive community, and self-advocacy which are under researched in academic research.

GGSE: If you could tell everyone one thing about autism/neurodiversity, what would it be?

Choi: Neurodivergent people are willing to communicate with neurotypical people, but they have different ways of communication. If you step by neurodiverse people quietly and give them more time to digest all the sensory stimulation, then you will be able to see their willingness to communicate with you and find their different ways of communication.

GGSE: If you could live anywhere, where and why?

Choi: If I could live by myself, I would live in Venice because it is the most romantic and artistic city with great food. If I could live with my family, I woudl live near Seoul in my own country, Korea because in Korea I would be able to form an inclusive community for my son with people who can share my vision for neurodiverse people, and there are a lot of small places to enjoy culture and nature.

[Sunghee Choi is available for interviews; contact George Yatchisin at george@education.ucsb.edu]