Exploring mothers’ experiences when their disabled child starts school: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

Gayton, Kathleen (2020) Exploring mothers’ experiences when their disabled child starts school: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Professional Doctorate thesis, Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust / University of Essex. Full text available

Gayton - Exploring.pdf

Download (2MB) | Preview


Most disabled children in England start school within a mainstream primary school environment. Research demonstrates that starting school is an important life stage for children and their families in terms of internal family dynamics and relationships with the wider community. However, there has been limited research about this experience for families with a disabled child, particularly within the English context, following the 2014 Children and Families Act. To extend the evidence base, this research explored the experiences of five mothers with disabled children as their child began mainstream primary school. The researcher adopted an insider researcher perspective, herself the mother of a disabled child. The interviews were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). The mothers’ experiences are interpreted and organised around four patterns across themes: Starting school as a life stage process, ‘The System’, change and growth and belonging and rejection. The analysis focused on the mothers’ idiographic accounts and some of the patterns across accounts, both convergent and divergent, were explored. The findings indicate that starting school was a significant experience for these mothers and their families, not least negotiating the statutory processes to secure additional support. The process involved a significant investment of time and emotional labour. Mothers experienced frustration, uncertainty and power imbalance. They also shared positive changes such as new relationships, acquisition of knowledge and confidence, changed understandings and involvement in supporting other families. The findings are contextualised within relevant paradigms including the Family Life Cycle, post-crisis growth, Bordieuan capital and Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory. Opportunities for professional reflection, implications for educational psychology practice and possibilities for future research are considered.

Item Type: Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Additional Information: Thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the Professional Doctorate in Child and Educational Psychology awarded by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust in collaboration with the University of Essex
Uncontrolled Keywords: Professional Doctorate in Child and Educational Psychology, Edpsych Updates
Subjects: Learning & Education > Educational Psychology
Learning & Education > Special Needs Education
Research, Tests, Assessments > Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis
Department/People: Children, Young Adult and Family Services
URI: https://repository.tavistockandportman.ac.uk/id/eprint/2403

Actions (Library Staff login required)

View Item View Item