Parents' perspectives on relationships with professionals in inclusive educational settings


Linda Davern

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Higher Education


Steven Taylor


inclusive education, parent professional relationships

Subject Categories

Special Education and Teaching


The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of how parents perceived the relationships that existed between themselves and school personnel. Participants were parents/caregivers of children with disabilities who were in inclusive settings; that is, the children were members of general classes as opposed to special classes. Fifteen families were represented in this study. Twenty-one parents participated. Five of the families appeared to fall somewhere between lower and middle income levels, with the remainder appearing to range from lower-middle to upper-middle class in terms of socioeconomic status. Ten of the families were European-American. Two of the families were African-American. One mother defined herself as Latino. One mother was European-American and the father African-American. One mother was African-American and the father was identified as Central American. (In several situations, only the mother was available for interviewing.) Children were primarily of early elementary age and attended urban, suburban, and rural schools.

This study was conducted primarily through the use of semistructured in-depth qualitative interviews, and was designed to address questions such as: How did these parents perceive the relationships between themselves and the school personnel involved with their children? How did these parents understand their roles in relation to their children's school experience? How did parents describe their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with interactions with personnel?

Parents described the roles they played in relation to their children's schooling. Many parents took on the roles of pioneers, leaders, and managers in relation to establishing or maintaining inclusive settings for their children.

Some parents described roles as partners in the planning process. The final type of role was that of a systems-change advocate. Parents discussed the types of communication they had with personnel. These included various types of meetings, written communication, phone calls, parents visiting schools, and personnel visiting homes.

Participants' perspectives on the attitudes they saw in personnel were presented--attitudes toward themselves, as well as their children. Participants also described perceptions of qualities that they valued in personnel such as openness and honesty, being accessible, and interest and capability to challenge the child and to make necessary adaptations. The implications of these findings for personnel working in the public schools as well as those in teacher preparation programs were presented.


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