Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department or School

Health Sciences

Committee Member

Elizabeth Francis-Connolly, PhD, OTR, Chair

Committee Member

Ruth Hansen, PhD, OT, FAOTA

Committee Member

Valerie Howells, PhD, OTR


A family-centered approach was espoused in IDEA Part C as the context for service to families with young children experiencing developmental delays. A phenomenological inquiry was conducted to explore how mothers of young children with disabilities orchestrate their engagement in an early intervention program, and to identify factors that support their participation. In-depth interviews were conducted with five mothers of children enrolled in a community-based program located in an urban area. An over-arching theme addressing the need for service providers to be “In my reality” emerged. Sub-themes highlighted needs of the mothers to understand their child’s condition, promote their child’s development, and have valued experiences/opportunities for their child. The mothers described how positive and negative informal and formal supports either enhanced or constricted their engagement. The study emphasized how family-centered programming should be the service mode, embracing and facilitating each family’s reality, and not just a stated philosophy.