Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Urban Education


Ofelia García

Committee Members

David Connor

Michelle Fine

Wendy Luttrell

Subject Categories

Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Disability and Equity in Education | Elementary Education | Special Education and Teaching


Emergent Bilingual Students with Disabilities, Bilingual Special Education, Disabilities Studies in Education, Mothering, Parental Involvement


Parental involvement in the United States has been identified in both academic and mainstream literature as a defining marker in academic achievement. Yet most of the literature regarding parents and schools are written about them without including their voice or their stories. Through the use of ethnographic case studies, this dissertation presents the experiences of immigrant, monolingual Spanish-speaking Latinx women raising emergent bilingual children who are labeled as dis/abled. This research is guided by an intersectional framework and the following questions:

1. What are the mothering experiences of Spanish-speaking Latinx mothers of emergent bilingual children labeled dis/abled?

2. What values, perspectives and ideologies do mothers hold about bilingualism and dis/abilities and how are those reflected in their lives at home and at school?

This study uses the participants’ testimonios to reveal the myriad of ways in which they support, love and care for their children through means that may not be in keeping with traditional values but are no less meaningful. These include, but are not limited to, hiring tutors, enrolling them in afterschool programs and religious education, using technology, and engaging in direct home language instruction. This study also showcases the ways in which school-based decisions regarding the language of instruction impact family dynamics. Additionally, the challenges that mothers undertake as caregivers, wives, daughters, sisters and women are shared. Some of these challenges range from limited English proficiency and work-life balance to domestic abuse and long-term separation from other children. This study brings to light the complex lives mothers’ lead and the ways in which they strive to meet the needs of their children regardless of the financial, physical and emotional costs to them.

This dissertation concludes with recommendations on how to better support these mothers and their children within schools. Particular attention is given to the expansion of educational settings that address students learning needs alongside family language needs. Lastly, recommendations are made as to how to engage mothers more directly within schools in ways that are mutually beneficial.

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