Parent Perspectives on Schooling Experiences of Internationally Adopted Youth with Disabilities


  • Alyssa Emery Iowa State University
  • Jacqueline von Spiegel Ohio State University
  • Robin Sayer Ohio State University
  • Naima Khandaker Ohio State University
  • Lynley Anderman Ohio State University



International adoption, bioecological systems, developmental appropriateness


Internationally adopted youth (IAY) with disabilities have distinctive needs for adaptive development, and schools play a central role in supporting and meeting these needs. Yet in our qualitative examination of 41 families of IAY with disabilities, we found that these needs are not often well understood by practicing educators and school staff. Using Bronfenbrenner’s (2005) bioecological systems model as a framework, we explored the resources utilized by families of IAY with disabilities, including those offered by schools, as well as participants’ perceptions of their experiences in utilizing these resources. We found that participants encountered widespread misconceptions regarding adoption, trauma, and disability among school staff and often struggled to access resources necessary for adaptive development. At the same time, teachers and other school staff were often key sources of social and emotional support for IAY with disabilities, and schools were, in general, the central hub of a well-functioning mesosystem. 

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Author Biography

Alyssa Emery, Iowa State University

Assistant Professor

School of Education

College of Human Sciences