Families' perceptions of the identification process: Related stressors, coping strategies, and supports

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Teaching and Learning

First Committee Member

Sharon Vaughn - Committee Chair


The purpose of this study was to describe how parents/families with children with disabilities ages three to five perceived the identification process (i.e., screening, evaluation, staffing, and initial placement). Moreover, this study attempted to identify the types of stressors associated with the process, and analyze the types of coping strategies and support systems utilized by parents/families during this time. The study was divided into two phases. Participants in Phase I included 439 parents who completed a mailed survey and 43 who were invited by the school district to attend one of three focus group interviews. Approximately ten to fifteen parents were in attendance at each focus group. Participants in Phase II included 14 parents who had previously attended focus group interviews during Phase I and were interviewed via telephone, and nine parents/families who participated in a family interview. All measures were developed and used for the purpose of this study. Statistical procedures were implemented to analyze responses related to the Likert-type items on the parent survey. Qualitative methods were used to summarize data from the open-ended question on the survey, focus group, telephone, and family interviews.Results indicted that the majority of parents/families surveyed reported moderate to high levels of satisfaction with the identification process, the program, and the types of services their children were receiving. However, a discrepancy was noted between the survey and interview findings. During interviews, parents/families reported that they wanted to be more informed about the steps in the identification process, program options and services, and characteristics of disabilities. Predominate themes in the study included the availability and understanding of information, positive perspectives on disabilities, and parental advocacy. Four specific areas were identified by parents/families as needing improvement: initial orientation to services, advertisement of services, time frame, and the need for additional information. Limitations of the study are included.


Education, Early Childhood; Education, Special; Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

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