Parent Perceptions of the Advocacy Expectation in Special Education

Zach Rossetti, Meghan M. Burke, Oscar Hughes, Kristen Schraml-Block, Javier I. Rivera, Kristina Rios, Janeth Aleman Tovar, James D. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although the Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) mandates parent participation in their children’s education programs, the implementation of IDEA results in parent effort beyond participation, specifically, an expectation of advocacy. To date, research on the advocacy expectation is mixed, with some parents perceiving advocacy as an obligation to ensure appropriate services for their children, whereas others argue it is unreasonable and has cultural dissonance, disadvantaging some parents. We examined parent perspectives of the advocacy expectation in special education through 19 focus groups with 127 parents of children with disabilities across four states. Findings included a nuanced understanding of the advocacy expectation, with participants reporting the importance of advocacy and some describing that advocacy was part of their social role. However, under adversarial circumstances with school personnel, participants described feeling overwhelmed because the advocacy expectation felt more difficult than it needed to be. We discuss implications for policy and practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)438-457
Number of pages20
JournalExceptional Children
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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