Special Education ETDs

Publication Date



Through a series of individual ethnographic interviews and focus groups, I explored the expectations and anticipations of middle and high school special education teachers as they carry out their professional charge of educating their students with intellectual disability for lives in the least restrictive environment, including possible adult roles as partners and parents. This study examined the choices teachers make, including teaching curriculum and professional responsibility, as they approach their professional duties in educating their students with ID for life beyond the classroom. Teachers were asked to share their expectations of themselves in preparing their students and their anticipation of their students adult lives once they leave the school system. Analysis of qualitative data gathered through both recorded individual interviews and focus groups revealed three major domains in which the data clustered including: (a) boundaries; (b) dangers and threats; and (c) responsibility for change. Themes within each domain also emerged to reveal concerns among the teachers for their students' safety, preparation for adult roles, tension with parents, and lack of school leadership. While this research focused on expectations and anticipations of middle and high school teachers in preparing their students for adult roles, including those of partner and parent, it revealed the need for attention to many aspects of the implementation of an educational program, including utilization of the IEP for individual educational planning and actualization of IDEA as tools to ensure students receive an appropriate education that prepares them for future roles in an inclusive society. Teachers struggled to exercise personal agency and action in making changes and seemed to be unsafe in exploring that possibility within the culture of the school and larger educational systems in which they worked.


Special education teachers -- Attitudes, Children with mental disabilities -- Education (Secondary), Youth with mental disabilities -- Marriage

Document Type




Degree Name

Special Education

Level of Degree


Department Name

Special Education

First Committee Member (Chair)

Scherba de Valenzuela, Julia

Second Committee Member

Trinidad Galván, Ruth

Third Committee Member

Copeland, Susan