Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Fall 10-31-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Abraham S. Fischler College of Education and School of Criminal Justice


Katrina Pann, PhD

Committee Member

Anne Joslin PhD


autism, special education, individualized education programs, parent attitudes


Despite the legal statutes in place that mandate parental participation in the individualized education program (IEP) process, the decision-making process is mainly dominated by educators. In addition, information on parental perceptions of IEP meetings is limited, especially in regard to parents of children with autism. Parental understanding of special education legislation and case law, advocacy, and perceptions of the IEP process for children with autism was explored in this study. Using a generic qualitative approach, 11 parents of children ages 3 to 13 years old with autism were interviewed via Zoom to develop an understanding of their experiences. Data were then analyzed using thematic analysis. The themes identified were as follows: Strong Feelings Overall About the IEP Process; Perceptions of IEP Process Consistent With Those on Meeting Child’s Needs; Open Communication Is Coveted; Parents Desire Equal Participation; Knowledge Is Power; Parental Input Is Key, and They Have Ideas for Change; Help Comes in Many Forms; Outside Services Come at a Cost: Both Emotional and Monetary; Legal Escalation Is Often Not Necessary and Avoidable; Case Law Does Not Play a Formidable Role in Parents’ Perceptions; Knowing Your Child’s Rights Can Drive the IEP Process; and There Is No Better Advocate Than an Educated Parent.

This study found that open dialogue between parents and educators is coveted and would ultimately produce a more satisfying perception of the IEP process from the parents’ perspectives. Parents felt that, to be able to be equal participants at the table, they needed to do their own research and consult with advocates and Master IEP Coaches so that they were able to project their thoughts and ideas in a way that would be taken seriously. Findings from this study may assist educators in promoting a more balanced approach to IEP meetings. The results may also be used to develop educational training for parents and educators to form a more collaborative IEP team.