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Parents' Perceptions of School Transitions for Children with Exceptionalities: Four Mothers' Stories



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The purpose of the present study was to explore the perceptions of parents of children with exceptionalities, transitioning from the community to formal school environments, learn more about current transition practices in Canada, and begin exploring potential areas for improvement. The present study employed a basic qualitative, interpretative research design using semi-structured interviews to discover parent perspectives of the barriers to effective transitions, and important factors that contribute to the success of transitions. The Ecological and Dynamic Model of Transition (Rimm-Kaufman & Pianta, 2000) supported the analyses of the data generated from the interviews. There were four major themes that emerged from the interview data. The first theme, Same Parent, New Role: Processing Emotional Responses and Balancing Increased Expectations During Transitions described the stress, frustration, isolation and barriers experienced by the parents during the transition process. This theme also highlighted the new and often daily challenges for the parents’ at home, school and in the community. Theme two, Unmet Needs, Ability To Thrive: Supporting Children with Exceptionalities focused on the child-specific experiences and how the parents’ supported their children in managing the difficulties of meeting the expectations of the formal school environment. The third theme, New Relationships, Limited Resources: Navigating The Formal School Environment centralized on the parents’ perceptions of schools, teachers and support teams. In this theme parents commented on the complexities of establishing new relationships with school staff that are collaborative, supportive and communicative. Finally, theme four, Financial Burdens Emotional Toll: Transitioning From Early Childhood Settings to Formal School, focused on both the challenges of accessing and the benefits of securing professional resources and services external to the school. The parents discussed the limitations of school resources and the unexpected need to locate and pay for or attain funding for additional supports. However, despite the many challenges that the participants within the current study faced, they all reported instances in which they were able to move forward, continue pursuing the needs of their child, adapt and adjust when faced with setbacks, and still reported benefits they would expect to see if change were made to current transition practices.



Parent Perceptions, Children with Exceptionalities, Transitions to School



Master of Education (M.Ed.)


Educational Psychology and Special Education


School and Counselling Psychology


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