Education K-12 M.A.

Year Approved


First Advisor

Cavalier, Meghan

Second Reader

Erin Wanat;


Parent advocacy in special education is currently an expectation built into the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA). The Individualized Education Program (IEP) process requires families and school personnel to work together to develop and implement appropriate special education and related services for eligible children. Positive family-professional partnerships are critical to the provision of effective programing with high expectations for students with disabilities and quality student outcomes. However, barriers to successful family-professional partnerships persist. Institutionalized hierarchies in the decision making process of special education programs, limited perceptions of ability, and tracking practices based on disability deficits puts parents at a disadvantage for their voices being heard. Parents may also be disempowered by one's own understanding of their personal role in the special education process and the level of influence one has on the child’s education journey. Discovering one’s rich capacity for being a parent advocate happens when learning what other parent advocates know and do while working with schools to develop an education program and plans for the child. A review of the literature on parent advocacy, organized into a high performance personal development framework of basic principles and action steps, can make the knowledge and actions of parent advocacy accessible and doable. This research-based parent advocacy framework can be used by parents and other special education advocates in the field to have powerful impacts on the educational outcomes of children with disabilities.

Degree Name

Education K-12 M.A.

Document Type

Masterʼs thesis