Academic journal article Education

Educational Goals for Individuals with a Severe Disability: Parental and Professional Preferences

Academic journal article Education

Educational Goals for Individuals with a Severe Disability: Parental and Professional Preferences

Article excerpt

The involvement of parents in the education of their child with a severe disability is based upon legal mandates, philosophical principles, and research data. As Hilton and Henderson (1993) noted, "There is little debate about the importance and potential benefits of involving parents in the education of students with severe disabilities" (p. 199). Parental involvement in the education of children with severe disabilities clearly takes many forms. Parents are active in curriculum development, program organization, social integration, and serve as change agents in the educational process.

Parental involvement should be built upon the premise that parents are partners or collaborators in the goal-setting process (Bailey et al., 1986). For parent-school collaboration to be worthwhile it should move beyond the concerns of "how to get the appropriate signature on the appropriate line of the appropriate form by the appropriate date" (Shevin, 1983, p. 17). Parent-school collaboration should lead to meaningful parental participation in the development and prioritization of educational goals.

In spite of their importance, goals and parental perceptions of goals have received only limited professional attention (Hamre-Nietupski, Nietupski, & Strathe, 1992). Epps and Myers (1989) explored parental preferences as one component of a comprehensive study which also examined satisfaction with school and expectations for postschool living arrangements for individuals who had severe and profound disabilities. Hamre-Nietupski et al. (1992) investigated the educational preferences of parents who had children with moderate and severe mental disabilities.

The purpose of this study was to compare parental and professional prioritization of educational goals for individuals who had severe disabilities. A measure of goal prioritization was compared across four educational levels (preschool, elementary, secondary, and post-secondary) and also between the categories of parents and professionals.

To investigate this issue three study questions were developed. The questions addressed were as follows:

1. Do parental preferences for educational goals for their children who have a severe disability vary as a function of the children's educational levels?

2. Do professional preferences for educational goals for their students who have a severe disability vary as a function of the students' educational levels?

3. Do parental and professional preferences for educational goals for individuals who have a severe disability differ significantly at four educational levels?

Method

Sample

The sample for this study included 81 parents whose children had a severe disability and 31 professional service providers who worked with individuals who had a severe disability. The sample consisted of eight groups, divided into two basic categories. The first category was comprised of four groups of parents who had children with a severe disability. The parents were grouped according to the educational level of their child, preschool, elementary, secondary, or postsecondary. The second category of subjects consisted of four groups of professional service providers employed to teach individuals who had a severe disability. The professional service providers were, likewise, grouped according to the educational level of their students.

The parents and professionals included in this study were drawn form 11 sites in central and northern Alabama. The study sites included six public school systems, two preschool facilities, and three postsecondary facilities. The sites were selected to include both rural and urban areas with a cross-section of economic groups.

Instrumentation

Parental and professional perceptions of goals and goal priorities are issues that have not been closely examined. Consequently, no instrument was located which identified and measured perceptions of goal priorities. …

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