Susan Offutt

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning


The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine a parent support system for families of children who have been diagnosed with special needs in an upper Midwesxem iural state. The goal of the study was to determine the efficacy of the present process and gamer information to improve the system.

Qualitative research methods were used. One-on-one interviews were conducted with five family dyads; each dyad consisted of a family whose child was recently diagnosed with a special need and their matched “veteran” family who was trained to provide emotional and informational support. Analysis of the data was designed based on a grounded theory approach.

Three major categories and seven themes emerged from the data. Results indicated that for parent support systems to work effectively, several factors must be considered. First, effectiveness may be impacted by not only the connection between families, but also by the initial contact with the support system. Secondly, the severity of the disability may be related to a greater need of emotional support. Third, the content of the veteran family training and the ongoing system contact between families, impacts the effectiveness of a match. Finally, the lack of a family-centered philosophy practiced by professionals may inhibit families from becoming aware of parent support systems.