Counseling parents of handicapped children: a study of selected school divisions in Virginia

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


The purpose of this study was to obtain baseline data on the implementation of counseling for parents of handicapped children in selected school divisions in Virginia. The 135 school divisions in Virginia were ranked by size of special education population as of the child count of December 1982. Thirty of the school divisions were selected as the sample by systematic random sampling procedures.

Two survey instruments were designed: one for school division superintendents and one for parents of handicapped students. Each of the 30 school division superintendents was sent one questionnaire. Eight, twelve, or sixteen parent questionnaires were sent to each of the 30 school divisions. The number depended on the size of the special education population in the school division. Half of the parent questionnaires were sent to the superintendent and half to the chairperson of the local Special Education Advisory Committee for distribution to parents of their choosing. There were 356 parent questionnaires in all. There was a 42% superintendent response and a 24% parent response.

Interviews were conducted with five of the seven school divisions which had responded that parent counseling was an integral part of the regular school program for handicapped children. The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, validated both the definition of parent counseling used in the research and the reasonableness and importance of the study findings.

Results of the research indicated that none of the school divisions which participated in the study provided parent counseling as an integral part of the regular school program for handicapped students; that provision of parent counseling depended upon individuals in the school system who perceived a need and made the effort to implement parent counseling; that during the course of this study there was a decrease in parent counseling services in some of the school divisions and no increase in parent counseling in any of the school divisions; and, that parent counseling has not appeared in state plans and has not been monitored by federal or state departments of education.