Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Ed.D. Doctor of Education

Academic Discipline

Disability and Equity in Education

First Advisor

Terry Jo Smith

Second Advisor

Kate Zilla

Third Advisor

Xiuwen Wu



This autoethnographic research delves into a mother’s experiences with her disabled son over thirty-five years. Beginning with a thick description of the crib accident that resulted in physical and cognitive disabilities that profoundly change the course of both mother and son’s life, this research chronicles the search for meaning, community, and healing as they negotiate the realms of medicine, education, career, family, and spirituality. Models of disability that seek to explain various ways in which society often views disability are examined, but none resonate with the researcher’s intimate experiences nor satisfies her deepest needs for insight and healing. Making a distinction between religious models that often carry negative assumptions of guilt and shame related to disability, this research delves into what the author describes as spiritual insights drawn from various religions and teachers, including her son, who impart wisdom with compassion. This research explores the critical incidences and insights that teach her to listen, observe, and to be open to new ideas and ways of thinking and acting, and a new image of God. Through spiritual struggles she is able to find forgiveness, understand new perspectives and let go of resentment. Eventually, tragedy turns to gift and hopeful meaning is restored to living.