Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Angela Stone-MacDonald

Second Advisor

Lianna Pizzo

Third Advisor

Annie George-Puskar


The transition from early intervention to early childhood special education programs is one of five key changes or transitions in the early childhood years. This transition involves a change in service systems from Part C to Part B of IDEA (2004), which involves a shift in the philosophy and service delivery models between the two systems (Hanson et al., 2000). The purpose of this study is to describe the experience of transition for families of children with disabilities, moving from early intervention into early childhood special education programs, with particular interest in how the family’s life history plays a role in the transition process. This qualitative research study used a hermeneutic phenomenological (van Manen, 2016) research design to provide a rich description of the lived experiences of the families participating in this study, as they worked through their emotional experiences and made decisions about their child’s transition that will impact their child and their family moving forward. The participants included four families, of toddlers, between the ages of two years, nine months, and three years, three months, who were in the process of transitioning out of one early intervention program, located within one New England State. The findings indicated that transition was a time filled with concern and worry, amplified by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, which not only impacted the transition into early childhood special education programs, but disrupted their early intervention services. As each mother reflected on their previous life experiences, it became clear that their early experiences influenced them and could not be separated from their decisions related to transition, and the choices they made as parents overall. In all cases, the families described a positive relationship with their early intervention team. This finding did not also hold true for their interactions with the public school system. Finally, practice implications and ideas for future research for the field of early intervention and early childhood special education were discussed.


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