Developing Special Education Advocates: What Changes during an Advocacy Training Program?

Samantha E. Goldman, Brittney L. Goscicki, Meghan M. Burke, Robert M. Hodapp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Special education advocacy trainings, such as the Volunteer Advocacy Project (VAP), have the goal of training advocates who can eventually support families in accessing needed services for students with disabilities. In addition to the training goal of increasing participants' special education knowledge and advocacy comfort, it is unknown if the VAP improves other participant outcomes related to later advocacy. Specific Aims: In this study, we asked: (1) Do VAP participants improve from pre- to post-test on knowledge and advocacy comfort, as well as on role identity, involvement in the disability community, and empowerment?; (2) Do participants' roles and levels of education moderate improvements in these outcomes?; and (3) Do participants who are differentially higher or lower on any of these variables at the pre-test show greater improvement from pre- to post-test on one or all other variables?. Method: Participants included 70 graduates of the VAP from 2014 to 2016. These participants completed pre-test and post-test assessments with measures on: special education knowledge, advocacy comfort, role identity, involvement, and empowerment. Findings: Results showed significant change in knowledge, comfort, involvement, and empowerment from pre-test to post-test. Only level of education significantly moderated the change in role identity from pre-test to post-test, with those with high school education increasing their role identity compared to those with a college degree or more. Empowerment was closely related to pre-test levels and to change scores for all other variables. Discussion: Implications for future research and practice are discussed, including the need to better understand moderators of treatment effect and mechanisms of change for advocacy trainings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)308-317
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Advocacy
  • Empowerment
  • Intellectual Disability
  • Parents
  • Training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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