Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Deron Boyles, PhD

Second Advisor

Chara H. Bohan, PhD

Third Advisor

Jennifer Esposito, PhD

Fourth Advisor

Melissa Leontovich, PhD


This dissertation uses oral history narratives to explore the educational experiences of students with disabilities that attended school between 1975 when the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was first established, and thirty years later in 2005. Because of the lack of archival and published information regarding special education students' perspectives, these narratives are intended to expand the existing historical record to include the voices of these students. This dissertation aims to provide agency to individuals whose history has been recorded without their participation. Educational-life narratives were produced from the conversations between the researcher and narrators, and the themes of social acceptance, academic persistence, and student-teacher relationships that evolved are examined by the researcher. Finally, additional lines of inquiry and recommendations for future research in oral history, teacher education, and Institutional Review Board (IRB) governance are recommended and discussed. This dissertation provides agency to these students, and creates a record of their experiences, giving voice to what we know about the history of special education in metro-Atlanta.