Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Leadership

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Russell O. Mays

Committee Members

Russell F. West, Ronald A. Lindahl, Martha Coutinho


Special education has evolved into a dominant area of education since first brought to the forefront. The reauthorization of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act updated and addressed many issues, including parental issues. Initially parents had to fight to be heard when addressing the needs and concerns of their child. Now parents are considered a crucial part of the special education process.

The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the thoughts and experiences of parents of children with disabilities related to the initial special education placement and the ongoing communication between parents and school professionals. Data were collected through interviews with 20 parents of children with disabilities in their initial years of service from a rural county in East Tennessee. Interviews were conducted mainly in parents' homes. Data were identified using interpretative analysis. Descriptive information about participants and their initial reactions were recorded in a journal.

From the findings the researcher concluded parents whose children were identified from birth to school age knew much more information about their child's disabilities; however, parents with children identified with disabilities after entering school needed a great deal more information than was provided, such as specifics on the child's disability and the process of special education implementation of the IEP. Most parents who addressed concerns to school professionals had positive outcomes, although there were communication breakdowns and conflicts before resolutions were reached. The majority of parents stated they were as actively involved in their child's school experience as they were initially; however, a few parents stated they were more involved because of conflict situations. Parents agreed that communication had increased with school professionals but more frequent and clearer communication was needed.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.