Date of Award

Spring 5-7-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling and Psychological Services

First Advisor

Stephen D. Truscott, Psy.D.

Second Advisor

Peggy A. Gallagher, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Joel Meyers, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Jeff Ashby, Ph.D.


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) mandates services from birth through age 21 for children with disabilities and their families (U.S. Department of Education, 2004). Children experience significant transitions between formal parts of special education, including the transition from birth-to-age-three services, to age-three-to-five services (Fowler, Donegan, Lueke, Hadden, & Phillips, 2000). Barriers, problems, and positive factors in these transitions (Christenson, 2004; Feinberg, Beyer, & Moses, 2002; Mitchell & Sloper, 2002; Valle & Aponte, 2002) include stress, satisfaction/dissatisfaction in professional-parent interactions, resistance of professionals to working with parents, and agreement/disagreement over service provision (Christenson, 2004; Ladwig, 2003; Minke & Scott, 1995; Park, 2003; Valle & Aponte, 2002). The nature of the interactions and the quality of relationships between special education professionals and parents can facilitate or hinder the process and outcomes of special education (Gould, 2002; Hanson et al., 2000; Hoover, 2001). Previous studies have examined the positive and negative experiences of parents. Further inquiry into the relationships and viewpoints of both professionals and parents could assist in enhancing the quality of services, decreasing the need for conflict resolution, reducing stress, and making team interactions more cohesive and productive. However, more information is needed before such goals can be achieved.

This study examined the experiences and perceptions of special education professionals and parents of children with disabilities who are in the process of transitioning from early intervention services (IDEIA, Part C) to special needs preschool services (IDEIA, Part B, Section 619). The perspective of African American parents is lacking in the research literature and was one focus of this study. A phenomenological qualitative investigation was conducted (Creswell, 1998). This research sought to examine: (a) the perceptions and experiences of three African American mothers across the transition process; (b) the perceptions the African American mothers had of the professionals they had contact with throughout the transition process; and (c) the perceptions professionals had of the African American mothers during the transition process.

Results showed that cultural factors including parenting practices and developmental differences were more salient to participants than race. Professionals expected parents to be knowledgeable about their child, but uninformed about the process of transition. The three parents generally met this expectation. Parents and professionals viewed transition as a process about paperwork rather than focused on relationships or interactions, and viewed this process as primarily child-centered. Results also suggested that while all participants accepted that transition requires process, positive interactions and rapport were desired and helped to minimize difficulties throughout the transition.