Education Doctorate

Year Approved


First Advisor

Melanie Keillor

Second Reader

Kristen Nichols-Besel

Third Reader

Tracy Reimer


Early childhood is a crucial time in a child's development and is often the entry point for a child experiencing developmental delays in the special education process. Parents play an essential role in the special education process as the child's primary caregivers. This study examined the decision-making process of economically disadvantaged Black and Hispanic/Latinx parents as they provide input on classroom setting decisions during preschool IEP creation. Through in-depth interviews, parents shared their lived experiences as they navigated the special education process and made decisions on classroom settings as part of the IEP team. Document analysis provided additional context in which parents made their decisions. The study found that parents had limited understanding of resources, lacked opportunities for collaboration, did not have knowledge about exclusionary settings, and built their own knowledge about exclusionary settings through personal experience. Based on these findings, policy and practice recommendations were made to support economically disadvantaged Black and Hispanic/Latinx parents to achieve active, informed participation in the IEP decision-making process. Active and informed parents may play a crucial role in disrupting the status quo of disproportionality in preschool special education. Educator training, diverse assessments, parents' access to advocates, and case studies were all areas in need of future research.

Degree Name

Education Doctorate

Document Type

Doctoral dissertation