Dual Roles: Experiences of Special Educators who are Mothers of a Child with a Disability

Estyr M. Bomgardner, Amy L. Accardo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Very little is known about the experiences of women who are both mothers of children with disability labels and special educators. Mothers who are not special educators often describe difficulties navigating special education systems and advocating for their children. Mother-special educators have unique insights and experiences that may benefit other members of the special education community, such as mothers who may encounter barriers from teachers or administrators. Our study investigates the experiences of mother-special educators using a multi-part online survey. Survey results (N = 66) revealed that the majority of participants felt that being a mother of a child with a disability label strengthened their special education practices and made the special education system easier to navigate. Mother-special educators described some dual-role tensions, such as heavy demands on their time, parenting pressures, and tensions that arose from teaching in the same district where their child attended school. Participants described their dual role as an asset when advocating for their students or their own child, and felt that they were better able to relate to other parents than educators who were not also mothers of a child with a disability label. Recommendations included educational administrators and special education teachers seeking out dual role perspectives to better address systemic special education issues such as improving inclusive practices and providing effective accommodations and services.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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