Emotional Disturbance and School Personnel's Interactions: Perspectives of Families of Youth with ED
Smith-Quinn, Renee M.
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Nearly eight percent of the six million students, ages 6 to 21 years, who are receiving special education or related services are identified as having Emotional Disturbance (ED). Students with ED have been identified among all students with disabilities as having the worst student outcomes such as lower grades, high failing rates, higher suspensions and expulsions and difficulty adjusting to post-secondary education. African American students are disproportionately placed in ED at a rate more than twice as often as students from other racial/ethnic groups representing 31% of all students with ED. A perspective of the experiences of African American students with ED that has been largely ignored is that of the parents of these students. The purpose of the current qualitative investigation was to better understand the perspectives of African American families of children with ED; their views of special education, their understanding of their roles and levels of involvement within the special education process, and the types of support they receive for their children with ED. Eight African American families from a small Midwestern suburban school district engaged in narrative and semi-structured interviews to describe their children’s educational experiences. The second interview afforded the investigator opportunities to further probe and gather more specific information, which resulted in varied pathways to understanding special education, families’ struggle to grasp the concept of ED, and families’ view of school personnel’s treatment of their sons and the manner in which it influenced their relationship with school personnel. Implications for future research and practice are discussed.