Special Education ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 5-13-2022


Social interactions and friendships are important for all individuals including those with complex support needs (CSN). The voices of adults including parents/guardians, primary caregivers, teachers, and related service providers who responded to a survey provided insight into supporting social interactions and friendships for children with CSN during the Covid-19 pandemic This mixed methods study used thematic analysis to explore participants’ responses to open-ended questions while multiple choice questions were analyzed through descriptive statistics. Additionally, this study included a research narrative to speak to the various roles I hold related to this study (i.e., parent, educator, researcher). Three themes emerged from the data including: (a) social interactions and friendships are important; (b) it takes a village, and (c) challenges of supporting social interactions and friendships for children with CSN. Three subthemes also arose from the analysis including: (a) social interactions and friendships come in different forms; (b) exposure of existing problems; and (c) personal reflection. I also discussed limitations of this study, possibilities for future research, and implications including: (a) friendships and social interaction opportunities are important and beneficial for children with CSN; (b) there continue to be few inclusive opportunities for children with CSN to engage in social interactions and develop and maintain friendships inside and outside of the classroom; and (c) expanding social networks for children and adults alike is needed.


children with complex support needs, friendship, social interactions, Covid-19 pandemic, mixed-methods, disability

Document Type




Degree Name

Special Education

Level of Degree


Department Name

Special Education

First Committee Member (Chair)

Susan Copeland

Second Committee Member

Ruth Luckasson

Third Committee Member

Erin Jarry

Fourth Committee Member

Jan Armstrong