Year of Publication


Date of Thesis


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Occupational Therapy

Subject Categories

Early childhood education— Parent participation; Occupational therapy for children; Mothers of children with disabilities; Parents of children with disabilities; Parents of developmentally disabled children


Family-centered care has been expected practice in early intervention for more than two decades; however, there continue to be difficulties with its implementation. One way to learn more about how early intervention practitioners can build effective partnerships with families is to listen to the mothers who care for the children receiving services. The purpose of this feminist, phenomenological study was to investigate the experiences of the mothers of young children in the early intervention system. A series of three in-depth interviews were conducted with each of the study’s three participants, all of whom were mothers of children who were being served or had recently been served through this system. The participants were interviewed about their experience of mothering, early intervention, and family-centered care. The qualitative analysis of the interviews revealed four major themes—the work of mothers, the emotions of mothers, the constraints on mothers, and the supports for mothers—as well as 30 subthemes. These findings suggested that the primary work of mothers—facilitating the healthy growth and development of their children—produces strong, varied, and sometimes conflicting emotions. This occupation was constrained by many factors, including the early intervention system itself. These emotions and constraints, however, could be mitigated by therapists who provide skilled services including family-centered care. These findings were similar to those found in previous research; however, some of the findings appear novel to this study, including the ideas that (1) mothers find pride and joy in their mothering work, and (2) mothers may not feel a need to participate formally in setting goals or directly in treatment sessions. As a result, implications for practice include providing support for co-occupations that are valuable to mothers and providing flexible, responsive services to mothers as well as children.



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