Date of Award

Spring 2-20-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Laurie, Goodman Ed.D

Second Advisor

Keith, Larick Ed.D

Third Advisor

Phil, Pendley Ed.D


Purpose: The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to investigate the experiences of Slavic parents of children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) and their perceptions of special education. The researcher’s goal was to determine whether parents’ cultural beliefs and customs affected their willingness to participate in the IEP and testing process and what supports and barriers they had along the way.

Methodology: This is a qualitative phenomenological study. In-depth, face-to-face interviews with 15 participants allowed collecting the rich data, which was analyzed using coding and thematic analysis. In particular, the study explored the lived experience of parents with special needs children enrolling in elementary schools in Sacramento, California and undergoing the IEP and testing process.

Findings: It has been found that cultural attitudes and customs indeed played a significant role in Slavic parents’ perceptions of special education in the United States. Some common themes, such as the fear of labeling, the fear of consequences, mistrust towards psychologists, and cultural barriers were identified. Furthermore, although some parents were generally satisfied with the IEP and testing, others reported a variety of barriers and challenges they faced, such as the lack of knowledge about special education, inadequate communication, pressure, and limited language skills. Family, community, and school support, in turn, were limited. Consistent with the theoretical framework by Cummins (1989) and Wolfendale (1939), parents shared some ideas regarding the improvements that should be made in the special education system in order to accommodate elementary school students with special needs.

Conclusions: The study concluded that there is an impact of culture on parent’s experience and perceptions. The lack of knowledge about IEP and testing as well as language barriers and lack of support all play a role in parents’ perception of special education.

Recommendations: Further research is recommended to explore how other variables such as generational perceptions, parent’s education level, severity of disability, identification time, country or origin, and culture affect parents’ perceptions of and attitudes to special education. It is also recommended to explore parents’ grief and acceptance process and how the culture of acceptance and support can be created in schools.