Understanding the Experiences of Families with Children Receiving Special Education Services in New York City Through Semistructured Interviews

Ciara Nestor, Fordham University


In the 2015 – 2016 school year 18.7% (212,036) of students in the New York City public school system were identified as needing special education services. These children had been identified by parents or teachers as needing special education services and were referred to the Department of Education (DOE) for psycho-educational and developmental evaluations. This process of referral, evaluation, and receiving services can be very stressful for the families involved in it. Few previous studies have documented parent’s perspectives on this process; those that exist have been largely conducted in Europe and none have taken place in the United States. The current project attempted to address this gap by conducting semi-structured interviews of parents whose children attended a Head Start program in the Bronx and were referred for special education services. Topics covered in the interview included parent’s decision making in regards to pursuing special education services from the DOE and barriers that they faced during the process. Interview transcripts were coded and analyzed using a grounded theory approach to form a substantive theory about the process of receiving special education services. Analysis revealed 4 narrative based themes: children’s experience of services, evaluation for services, barriers to receiving services, and the effect of services; and 3 themes that were interwoven throughout the entire process: parents’ views of special education, the amount of knowledge parents have about special education and support provided by the children’s school. Consideration of the above themes may help professionals tasked with supporting parents within the world of special education to better understand parents’ perception of the process. This increased understanding of the process from a parent’s perspective will enable these professionals to provider greater support and improve policies meant to help families.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Special education

Recommended Citation

Nestor, Ciara, "Understanding the Experiences of Families with Children Receiving Special Education Services in New York City Through Semistructured Interviews" (2018). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10931837.