Author ORCID Identifier


Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Special Education

First Advisor

Dr. Kevin Sutherland

Second Advisor

Dr. Chin-Chih Chen


The transition to middle school is a critical time in adolescence. The more complex school environment provides opportunities for growth and challenges for students with disabilities. Although special education strives to provide individualized supports to students with disabilities through data-based decision-making, the tools used to understand and meet the needs of these students are often unresponsive to the dynamic nature of development and student adjustment as they age. Grounded in developmental science, this study sought to create a data collection framework through a person-centered approach to inform the individualization process. Specifically, this study: 1) explored a decision process that allows interventionists to place students in well-established interpersonal competency configurations that can guide interventions; 2) understand how different academic, behavioral, and emotional outcomes are related to SWD in specific configurations, and if these outcomes change from 6th to 7th grade, and 3) clarify potential process variables and their interactions with students within specific configurations to explore how these variables contribute to student functioning and potential adaptations. Results established a process practitioners can use to place SWD in configurations informed by interpersonal competencies and provided insight into differential patterns of adjustment and developmental mechanisms that are associated with different trajectories and outcomes for SWD in middle school.


© Brittany I. Sterrett

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