Date of Award

Spring 6-2008

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Curriculum & Instruction

First Advisor

Dr. Karen Monkman

Second Advisor

Dr. Mojdeh Bayat

Third Advisor

Dr. Horace Hall


Having a child with moderate to severe disabilities is a life-altering experience for many families. This study is an exploration of the relationship that exists between the parents of children with moderate to severe disabilities and special education professionals. It is an attempt to gain a deeper understanding of the parental perspective on the complexities of that relationship, and to investigate how that relationship is negotiated through stories told by eight parents about their experiences with the professionals in the schools their children attend. This study is also focused on how parents, school systems, and societal understandings of disability and difference intersect in the realm of providing educational opportunities and care for children with disabilities.

This is a Narrative Inquiry study, and it is influenced by feminist methodological considerations. Interviews conducted with participants generated a collection of life-story case studies. Findings were analyzed for commonality and seven themes emerged from the data. They include the impact of having a child with a disability on the family, expectations, special education placement issues, communication, the quality of interactions between parents and professionals, systemic barriers to relationships, and the process of accepting or making peace with having a child with disabilities. The conceptual framework for analysis involves the ethics of care, power relationships in school and the phenomenon of ambiguous loss. Results suggest that conflict is inevitable because parents and professionals view children through different lenses, but that thoughtful and compassionate efforts on the part of educators can develop into relationships that provide welcome support and understanding to families during difficult periods of adjustment and transition.