Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Educational Administration and Leadership

First Advisor

Thomas Nelson

First Committee Member

Christina Rusk

Second Committee Member

Jean Gonsier-Gerdin


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires local education agencies to include parents as equal team members in the cultivation of their child’s individual education plan (IEP). Despite law, studies have shown that parents experience barriers to being included in the process. Barriers such as a lack of information, lack of understanding of the law, and feelings of unequal status or power as compared to school district team members have been noted. The aim of this study was to explore the perceptions, feelings, and understanding of the initial IEP process as experienced by parents new to the world of special education.

This study took the form of two research articles, each with a set of three research questions. Through the utilization of narrative inquiry, I was able to listen to the stories of parents as they tried to navigate their way through the initial IEP experiences, hear who supported their understanding along the way, learn how parents perceived their role during their journey, feel the emotions that parents shared feeling during their experiences, and find out if parents knew their procedural safeguard rights.

The most impactful barriers for parents new to special education was the lack of adherence to legal timelines. Parent requests for special education assessment took up to two years for some parents. Lack of information and understanding of the IEP process and law was another major hurdle for participants. Without adequate information and understanding parents felt a power imbalance and feeling of being taken advantage of. Parents described a disconnect regarding how they viewed their parent role and how the school district viewed their role. A copious amount of praise was given to family resource centers for their support and trainings offered to parents.



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