Special Education ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 5-22-2018


This study examined the support needs of four first generation immigrant families with sons and daughters with disabilities from a city in the South West of the United States and gave them a voice to add to the knowledge base that can inform the development of supports and policies for families. Parents talked about their separation from extended families and being alone in an unfamiliar country without knowledge and information on how to raise a child with a disability. Spouse and children were the closest forms of support, but for a single parent, the needs multiplied. All families shared the importance of having support from other parents and family support centers. The participants interviewed found comfort in connecting with other families speaking the same language and coming from the same country. The information they received about their rights came about in a social context. There was a feeling of camaraderie and willingness to help each other. Mothers noted that first generation immigrant parents often struggled with English and felt much more comfortable when information was available in their native language. There was consensus on the importance to learn the system immediately after coming to the United States. Families were concerned that they did not know their rights and felt they were not part of the team in the school setting. Parents also spoke about the differences in supports in the United States compared to their home countries.


Support needs of immigrant families, Disabilities, First generation immigrant families, Children with disabilities

Document Type




Degree Name

Special Education

Level of Degree


Department Name

Special Education

First Committee Member (Chair)

Ruth Luckasson

Second Committee Member

Jan Armstrong

Third Committee Member

Susan Copeland

Fourth Committee Member

Megan Griffin