Special Education ETDs

Publication Date



Collaboration among parents, educators, and students expands the knowledge base and promotes mutual respect among decision-makers involved in planning students education. The relationship can help students achieve their goals. This study sought to examine the experiences among students with intellectual disability and their families in high school. I chose to use qualitative methods of portraiture and interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Students, like those in this study, with low incidence disabilities are often disenfranchised because of their low proportion of the general population of high school students. The results of this study, reported in portraits, gave voice to members of this disenfranchised group. I interviewed three former students, their mothers, and one adult sister. I recorded, transcribed, and analyzed the interviews. I reported the results as portraits to capture the voices and document the lived experiences of this marginalized group. There were a few notable common threads among the participants. The former students were all assigned to small group, special education classes and included only in a few general education electives. Despite negative experiences, each former student said that he liked school. The former students' mothers reported that the quality of vii education that their sons received was dependent on the quality of individual teachers. The mothers expressed that the IEP meetings were not helpful to them or their sons, but were carried out to serve the needs of the system. A third commonality among the mothers was that they did not receive appropriate transition services from the school district. Generalization of the study is limited by the small sample size and the unique nature of each portrait. However, a clear picture emerges of the experiences of these individuals during their high school years.


intellectual disability, special education, high school, parent involvement, student experiences, interview, portraiture, interpretative phenomenonological analysis

Document Type




Degree Name

Special Education

Level of Degree


Department Name

Special Education

First Committee Member (Chair)

Armstrong, Jan

Second Committee Member

Copeland, Susan

Third Committee Member

Cathy, Huaqing Qi