The Perceptions and Goals of Special Education Advocacy Trainees

Samantha E. Goldman, Meghan M. Burke, Maria P. Mello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although the field of special education advocacy is growing, little is known about the perceptions and goals of individuals who participate in advocacy trainings. It is important to understand why individuals want advocacy training to design more effective programs and determine whether training meets participant expectations. In this study, we evaluated the perceptions of 142 participants who completed the Volunteer Advocacy Project (VAP), a special education advocacy training. Using participants’ responses to open-ended questions on the VAP application, we examined the perceptions of caregivers and professionals to understand their motivations for becoming advocates, their plans for using their newfound knowledge and skills, and their perceptions of the attributes of special education advocates. Findings indicated some key differences between caregivers and professionals in their reasons for becoming advocates and plans for using their newfound knowledge and skills. Participants wanted to become special education advocates to help their own child (if they were caregivers) and to help others. Participants planned to use their newfound knowledge and skills to advocate and to provide service to the community at three levels depending on their role: school, community, and state/national. Finally, regardless of role, participants perceived warmth, competence, and grit to be necessary attributes of successful advocates. Implications for research and practice are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)377-397
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 15 2019


  • Advocacy
  • Caregivers
  • Disability
  • Professionals
  • Special education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'The Perceptions and Goals of Special Education Advocacy Trainees'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this