Developing a special education program for any child can be a contentious process, but new research suggests most parents are satisfied with their inclusion at individualized education program, or IEP, meetings.
In a study looking at the experiences of families of more than 10,000 students with disabilities, the majority of parents said they attended their child’s most recent IEP meeting. And of parents who attended, about 70 percent said they thought their level of involvement in decision making was “about right.” In most other cases, parents said they wanted to be more involved.
The research, published this month in the Journal of Disability Policy Studies, is based on data on students ages 11 to 19 collected through two U.S. Department of Education studies. The federal reports are the first to offer a national look at participation of parents and students with disabilities at IEP meetings.
Despite the positive overall response, however, certain factors did increase the likelihood of dissatisfaction. Parents of students with challenging behavior or difficulty with social skills were less satisfied with the IEP process than others. Similarly, race and income level appeared to play a role, with those who are white and members of higher income brackets reporting that they had better experiences than those from other demographic groups, the study found.
What’s more, parents of younger students were also more likely to be satisfied, the researchers said, suggesting that burnout plays a role as students age.
“Finding ways to address obstacles to parents’ involvement at school is particularly important in light of the benefits associated with it,” wrote the study authors from SRI International, an independent research firm. “Research demonstrates that greater involvement of parents of students with disabilities is associated with better student outcomes of many kinds, including better school engagement, academic performance, social adjustment and independence.”