Barriers to and variability of parental involvement in the education of secondary students with disabilities: A collective case study

Brister, Heather M. Adams
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The issue of parental involvement has been studied by researchers in depth for decades. However, researchers have not investigated if parents of students with different disabilities experience different barriers to involvement, if the level of involvement varies based on the disability category, or if the involvement of parents of secondary students differs from that of parents of younger children. This study examined these areas by employing a qualitative research design, and included three special education eligibility categories: learning disability, emotional disturbance, and mental retardation. Participants included 12 parents of secondary students with disabilities who received special education services at one north Texas public high school. The results of the interviews yielded parental perceptions of the challenges they faced when attempting to become involved and the ways in which they were involved in their children's education.

The results of this study showed that parents of secondary students with disabilities face different challenges to involvement based upon their child's disability. Parents of students with emotional disturbances experience different barriers to involvement than parents of students with learning disabilities or mental retardation. The barriers faced by the parents of students with emotional disturbances appear to be directly related to the disability and the emotional and behavioral difficulties that are inherent to an emotional disturbance. Additionally, parents of students with mental retardation have had a greater amount of involvement due to the length of time they have been aware of their child's disability due to diagnosis shortly after birth. The parents of students with this disability reported similar types of involvement as those indicated by parents of students with learning disabilities and emotional disturbances.

Implications of the results include the need for early identification of emotional disturbances in order to increase parental involvement and decrease student difficulties. The need for teacher and administrator training, as well as parent education, were noted as essential factors in the effort in increase parental involvement.

Education, Disabilities, Parent involvement, Secondary students