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


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.


  • Women who are both special educators and mothers of a child with a disability navigate dual roles.

  • The insider status of mother-special educators provides deep understanding of needed change in special education systems.

  • Mother-special educators share closer and more meaningful relationships with the mothers of their students.

  • Mother-special educators report greater understanding of the complexities of inclusion and needing strong advocacy skills.

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Correspondence to Estyr M. Bomgardner.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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All procedures performed in the studies involving human participants were in accord with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee.

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Bomgardner, E.M., Accardo, A.L. Dual Roles: Experiences of Special Educators who are Mothers of a Child with a Disability. J Child Fam Stud 31, 866–880 (2022).

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  • Special education
  • Mothers
  • Parent roles
  • Teacher roles
  • Parent-school communication