Date of Award

Spring 5-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Michael Hass

Second Advisor

Amy Ardell,

Third Advisor

Leigh Ann Tipton-Fisler


This study examined parents’ and teachers’ social constructions of disability, school readiness, and the transition to kindergarten process for children with disabilities who participated in a self-contained preschool special education (SPED) class, called a special day class (SDC). The 12 participants included parents of children with disabilities (i.e., three with autism and one with Down syndrome), four preschool SDC teachers, two kindergarten SDC teachers, and two general education kindergarten teachers. They were recruited from a large urban school district in Southern California. Semistructured interviews were conducted to invite participants to share their experiences working with students with disabilities and their roles in these students’ transitions to kindergarten. A dialectical–relational approach to discourse analysis, with a focus on subject positioning, was applied when coding the interview transcripts for themes.

Consistent with an ecological framework of school transition (Rimm-Kaufman & Pianta, 2000), themes in the transcripts identified contextual factors that influenced the early school experiences of students with disabilities. These factors included classroom structure, availability of resources for mainstreaming, and collaboration among parents and teachers. Participants also identified important child-focused factors, emphasizing social–emotional and behavioral skills over academic skills as important for school readiness.

Parents’ and teachers’ accounts of their experiences in the transition process revealed their different roles and perceived levels of authority in the decision-making process (e.g., decisions to continue students’ placement in a SDC or transition into general education). The methodology and findings of this study added to the scant literature on school readiness among children with disabilities and had several implications for practice and future research.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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