How Parents of Exceptional Children Describe Their Relationships with Educational Professionals

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Virginia Tech

The purpose of this study was to explore relationships between parents of children with exceptionalities and educational professionals. The guiding question of this study was: How do parents of children with exceptionalities describe their relationships with educational professionals? Bronfenbrenner's (1979) ecological theory and Crockett's (2002) star model for Special Education Planning provided the framework for this qualitative inquiry. Methods included a content analysis of four decades of journal abstracts depicting the past voices of parents of exceptional children. This historical review spanned articles about the following topics: a child's exceptionality being the result of physical or social heredity; educators as experts who train parents; the involvement of parents sought in certain instances; and, finally, professionals seeking out parental impressions and perspectives of educational practices. Current voices of 14 parents of children with exceptionalities were captured by individual and group interviews, as well as observations at an open parent meeting led by state officials. The constant comparative method was used to analyze the qualitative data. The study found current parental dissatisfaction, mainly concerning their relationships with general education professionals. The study's findings were grouped into four thematic categories: Communication, Caring, Competence, and Continuity. A model of parent-professional relationships depicting these categories was developed to inform both special and regular educators of parents' concerns, and, to assist in the establishment and maintenance of ongoing positive relationships.

competence, communication, IDEA, disabilities, exceptionalities, continuity, special education, caring