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My Child and Me: Traversing The Educational Terrain

by Patricia Alvarez McHatton & Elizabeth Shaunessy - November 27, 2006


The study emanated from interviews with caregivers of children with disabilities. We sought a way to convey the emotional power in the parents’ voices.


The purpose of the study was to understand parents’ perceptions and convey them through a creative vehicle, inviting consumers of the research to become participants in the meaning-making process through their active engagement with the text.

Research Design:

This investigation is a secondary analysis of two qualitative studies exploring the school experiences of parents of children with exceptionalities. Both original studies consisted of structured interviews; caregivers discussed their experiences raising a child with a disability and their interactions with the educational system.


Results indicate that most of the participants experienced multiple challenges with the educational system, specifically related to their child’s behavior. Several caregivers recalled being asked repeatedly to come and pick up their child and questioned the effectiveness of this strategy. In many cases, they shared frustration at the expectations others had for their children and spoke of their hopes and dreams for the future. All expressed concern over what will happen when they are no longer here to look after their child.

Their stories also revealed resiliency and advocacy efforts as they strove to ensure their children received necessary services. Many of the parents spoke about both positive and negative experiences with school personnel and several expressed gratitude for a specific teacher that had reached out to them and their child.

Each of the participants’ stories was powerful and moved us to reflect on our own experiences as researchers, educators, parents, and relatives of children with exceptionalities. In considering how to best present the data, we determined that a performance piece would be the most appropriate venue. It is our belief that a product such as this would serve as a beneficial teaching tool in the preparation of pre-service and practicing teachers to work with caregivers of children with exceptionalities.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: November 27, 2006
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12855, Date Accessed: 10/21/2020 4:06:39 AM

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About the Author
  • Patricia McHatton
    University of South Florida
    E-mail Author
    PATRICIA ALVAREZ MCHATTON, Ph.D., NBPTS, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Special Education and the Undergraduate Program Coordinator at the University of South Florida. Her research interests include preparing culturally competent educators, experiential learning and service learning, perceptions of school belonging by culturally and linguistically diverse students, and issues of stigma and discrimination for culturally and linguistically diverse families and students. She recently co-authored several articles including “Lessons Learned from Service-Learning: Preparing Professionals Through Community Involvement” (Alvarez McHatton & Thomas, 2006), published in Mentoring and Tutoring: Partnership in Learning and “Stigma and Discrimination: Perspectives from Mexican and Puerto Rican Mothers of Children with Disabilities” (Alvarez McHatton & Correa, 2005), published in Topics in Early Childhood Special Education.
  • Elizabeth Shaunessy
    University of South Florida
    E-mail Author
    ELIZABETH SHAUNESSY, Ph.D., NBCT, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Special Education, and serves as the Coordinator of the Gifted Education Program at the University of South Florida, where she teaches courses in gifted education. Her research interests include issues of diversity in gifted education, social-emotional needs of gifted students, and technology in gifted education, and public policy in gifted education. She recently co-authored several articles, including “School Functioning and Psychological Well-Being of International Baccalaureate and General Education Students: A Preliminary Examination,” (Shaunessy, Suldo, Hardesty, & Shaffer, 2006), which was published in the Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, and “Preparing Teachers of the Gifted to Address Social-Emotional Needs of Gifted Students: A Web-Based Course,” (Gill & Shaunessy, 2006), which was published in Informing Faculty.
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