Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



Degree Granting Department

Teaching and Learning

Major Professor

Phyllis Jones, Ph.D.

Committee Member

P. Jeannie Kleinhammer-Tramill, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Daphne Thomas, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Linda Raffaele-Mendez, Ph.D.


Belonging, collaboration, partnership, school-family subsystem


The goal of this study is to contribute to understandings of parent-school relationships involving parents of students with autism by exploring notions of belonging with a small group of parents. The purpose of the study is to describe the experiences of middle school parents of children with autism. From these descriptions, I examined how parents of students with autism might contribute to understandings of belonging in school-family partnerships and enable schools and families to collaborate more effectively. This study addresses an apparent gap in understandings of belonging of parents of children with autism in their relationships with their child's school. As parents are asked to make connections with their children's school in parent-school partnerships, understandings of those connections are vital to generating and sustaining meaningful and effective relationships between parents and schools. This study uses thick descriptive methods (Geetz, 1973) to examine the phenomenon of belonging in parent-school partnerships among a small group of parents of middle school children with autism. The experiences of the parents in this study suggest that parents of middle school students with autism seek a sense of belonging in their relationships with those they work with regarding their children's schooling. This study also suggests that a sense of belonging may be an essential element of effective parent-school partnerships.