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Exploring Resilience in African American Single Mothers of Children with Disabilties and its Impact on Their Engagement in the IEP Process Open Access

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The construct of resilience has been defined in the research in various ways and in specific and broad terms. In this qualitative study, the resilience process was specifically explored in African American single mothers of children with disabilities as they developed their capacity to rebound from adversity, adapted to having a child with a disability as they dealt with new and different demands, and met the challenges of advocating for their children in educational settings. A purposeful sample of 14 mothers with children in a suburban public school in the southeastern region of the United States was selected to participate in this study. All the mothers were African American, ages 21 and above, with a child with one or more disabilities. The participants were comprised of two sample groups; eight of the mothers participated in individual interviews, six participated in a focus group, and one mother from each sample group was observed participating in an observation in a school setting. This data was analyzed using general phenomenological concepts and hermeneutic phenomenology.The findings in this study revealed that resilience was the cornerstone for the participants successful adaptation to their child's disability. Relationships with their spouses or significant others were also important. The participant's reliance and use of informal and formal support systems served as protective factors against adversarial situations within the family and in the school setting. Their expression of resilience in the school setting created opportunities for self-efficacy, child advocacy, trusting relationships and collaborative decision making with school personnel during their child's educational meetings. The emergence of their strengths that accompanied their resiliency was reflected in similar studies. However, the responses of the participants in this study to their life challenges were unique to this population.

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