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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Graduate Nursing

First Advisor

Barbara Goddard


services for exceptional children, family services


The purpose of this qualitative study is to describe the process families with school-aged children who have special needs use to provide services their children require. Open-ended interviews were conducted with seven primary caregivers of school-aged children with special needs.
Data was analyzed by constant comparison. Coded data was separated into data bits and sorted for similarity in content. The data clustered around four categories: (1) using self, (2) normalizing, (3) facing hurdles, and (4) worrying about the future. Despite variances in income, ages of children, and special needs, all interviews revealed experiences in the four listed categories. Using self is a process whereby the caregiver or another family member initiates activities or strategies to solve a problem. Normalizing is a process of attributing at least one positive, individual aspect to the child. Facing hurdles is a situation where the family meets an obstacle in their attempts at meeting their child's needs. Worrying about the future is the family's concern about the long term outcome of their child.
The study has implications for nursing to assess families' and children's strengths and to guide families with special needs children over hurdles and concern for the future. Further larger and more diverse studies are recommended.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Exceptional children -- Services for
Family services



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


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