Let Us Hear the Parents

Article excerpt

This paper reports the findings of structured interviews that were conducted with 40 mothers of school-age children with disabilities. Findings indicate that majority of the mothers are satisfied with special education services that their children with disabilities receive in their respective schools. Findings also point to family preferences that the professionals could consider while collaborating with parents.

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Family is a context from which children emerge. It is a powerful resource. Acknowledging the family's contribution to child development and considering the impact of childhood disability on the family, special education legislation rightly empowers the family. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (PL 105-17), previously known as Education for All Handicapped Children Act (PL 94-142) and its amendments (PL 101-476, PL 99-457) mandate family's involvement in educational decision making (Smith, Polloway, Patton, & Dowdy, 1998). School professionals and parents have to work hand in hand and that is challenging, especially when parents of children with disabilities believe that their lives are tremendously difficult. (Turnbull and Turnbull, 1997; Fox, Vaughn, Wyattee, and Dunlap, 2002). There is anecdotal evidence that suggests that school and family collaborations are not always productive and not always conflict free. This study was designed to address the pressing need of current knowledge base. It aimed to collect data on maternal opinions and preferences as they relate to collaboration with school professionals on everyday basis. Specifically, the study addressed the following questions:

1. What is the opinion of mothers of children with disabilities about special education services that their children with disabilities receive in their schools?

2. How often would mothers of children with disabilities like to communicate with their disabled child's teacher?

3. What mode of communication do mothers of children with disabilities prefer when communicating with their disabled child's teacher?

4. How would teachers be more successful in collaborating with families of disabled children?

5. What would mothers of children with disabilities like to know about their child's school related work?

Research Method

Participants

Forty mothers of school- aged children with disabilities participated in the study. Mothers of children with disabilities were selected by the interviewers by method of availability and convenience. Participating mothers of children with disabilities represented friends, neighbors, relatives, and in some cases acquaintances. All participants were Caucasians. Children's disabilities included Down syndrome, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, communication disorders, autism, juvenile diabetes and multiple disabilities. The mean age of children was 11.05 years with a standard deviation of 2.78. Mothers' ages ranged between 25 and 45 years.

Data Collection

Data were collected via interviews. Interviews were structured and they were audiotaped. The duration of each interview was approximately 30 minutes. Interviews were conducted in the homes of participating parents. Interviews were subsequently transcribed

The study was carried out as a class project in an Educational Research and Statistics, graduate level course. Elementary and secondary teachers from local schools conducted the interviews. These teachers were enrolled in the Graduate Teacher Education Program of a private university. All interviewers were Caucasians. Interviewers were fully trained in interview techniques. Also, they were given written directions to follow as they collected the interview data.

Results

All interviews were transcribed and coded. The author coded the interviews and calculated the frequency of maternal responses. This section discusses the findings, which correspond with the research questions posed earlier in this paper. …