Spring 2015

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Leadership (Ed.D.)

Type of Paper/Work



Sarah J. Noonan

Second Advisor

Shelley Neilsen Gatti

Third Advisor

David W. Peterson


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2004 requires parental participation at the Individual Educational Plan (IEP) conference. This qualitative, case study examined the experiences of parents during the IEP conference to identify factors influencing collaboration between parents and school personnel. Fourteen parents described their experiences and emotions as they became involved in the special education process. Parents described their feelings at the time of their child’s referral to special education services, their participation in the IEP conference, and their impressions and expectations after the IEP conference. This study identified parental experiences in three stages: initial, intermediate, and final stages corresponding to the grief and loss model adapted from the Kübler-Ross Model (1969). A central finding of this study involved parental participation, satisfaction, and engagement in the IEP conference and its dependency on the stage of grief and loss parents experienced at the time of the IEP conference. Other analytical lenses used to examine parental experiences in the IEP conference include structural role theory (Turner, 2002) and chronic sorrow (Olshansky, 1962). A second finding involves the presence of chronic sorrow (Olshansky, 1962), referring to the cyclical reaction of profound sadness and loss. The study revealed the need for helping parents through the emotional distress of having a child in need of special education services. Recommendations included training educational professionals in the areas of grief and loss to help parents manage their emotional reactions and providing information to parents regarding support groups and other resources.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

This file may be slow to open due to its size. For best results, right-click and select "save as..." COinS