Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities
Advocacy, Caregivers, Professionals, Special education, Disability
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.
Support for this research was provided by the Office of Special Education Programs Grant for Leadership Training in High-Need Students with Severe Disabilities/ Autism (H325D100010). However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Office of Special Education Programs and one should not assume endorsement by the Federal government.
During the time period in which they collected the data used in this study, two of the authors were completing a graduate program with funding from the Office of Special Education Programs Grant for Leadership Training in High-Need Students with Severe Disabilities/Autism (grant #H325D100010).
© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018
Goldman, S. E.; Burke, M. M. ; and Mello, M. P. (2019). The Perceptions and Goals of Special Education Advocacy Trainees. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities 31(3): 377-397. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10882-018-9649-2