Misty D. Torres is a 2015 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, Seattle.

Dissertation Committee:

  • Patricia Linn, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Elin Björling , Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Michelle Felker, Ph.D., Committee Member


special needs education, individual education, IEP, Section 504, childhood diagnosis, daycare, preschool, decision making, primary caregivers, family impact, parents, disability

Document Type


Publication Date



In this qualitative, Grounded Theory study, the researcher examined the process that primary caregivers go through when selecting a childcare placement for children who have special needs. Data were collected through participant interviews with primary caregivers (n=10) who responded to recruitment notices posted on (1) listservs by organizations directly affiliated with early intervention and child care services; (2) local Internet classified sites; and (3) through word of mouth. The research demonstrated that caregivers who learned of their child’s disability in a prenatal diagnosis or prior to an adoption identified with having a greater sense of choice and control over their circumstances, and had more confidence in their ability to make competent, informed decisions regarding their child’s needs than caregivers unaware prenatally of a diagnosis. The same was true for parents who had a primary support system in a spouse or significant other, thereby offering additional options over those available to a single parent. Second, due to poor provider training and education with special needs populations, caregivers were more likely to keep their child in the home and work around whatever financial hardship may result. Third, caring for a disabled child is an emotional paradox that is difficult, yet rewarding, and it is the unconditional love that caregivers have for their children that drives them to give tirelessly against the odds. Based upon the data, recommendations for future practice include a community model in which individual and/or family therapy is coupled with a strong referral base that places the family into contact with relevant early intervention resources within the community. By working closely with the family and helping them to connect with organizations and professionals in their community, the therapist can empower the family by way of resources, psychoeducation, and support. The electronic version of this dissertation is at OhioLink ETD Center,