Parents are the Experts: Understanding Parent Knowledge and the Strategies They Use to Foster Collaboration with Special Education Teams

Colby Kervick, Ed. D


The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (1975), PL-94142, mandated parent participation as a required component of the provision of special education services to children with disabilities.  It is widely recognized that a collaborative teaming approach is the most effective strategy to foster parent participation (Friend & Cook, 2010; A. Turnbull, Turnbull, Erwin, Soodak, & Shogren, 2011; R. Turnbull, Turnbull, & Wehmeyer, 2010).  This article explores selected findings from a qualitative research study that investigated the perspective of parents of children with disabilities in order to understand: 1) how they acquired and shared knowledge about their child’s disability, 2) how they navigated and negotiated special education processes and 3) how they fostered collaboration with professionals.  By exploring the issue of collaborative teaming through the lens of parents, the study offers insight about the expertise of parents, the dynamics of collaborative teaming and the multi-faceted nature of the “parental role.”

Note:  The preparation of this article was supported in part by funding from the Jean S. Garvin Research Fellowship at the Center on Disability and Community Inclusion, University of Vermont.

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