Making decisions : a critical analysis of factors affecting decision making processes for parents and caregivers of students with special needs : a thesis submitted as partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Education (Special Education), Massey University
This thesis examines the experiences and perspectives of parents and caregivers and professionals in the education of students with special needs. Special education is reviewed and the move towards parent-professional partnerships is examined In the past, there has been little critical evaluation of the role of parents in educational decision-making This study recognises the difficulties encountered by parents, caregivers and professionals in creating efficient partnerships. Without documenting the experiences of the people significantly concerned in the education of children with special needs, many erroneous assumptions may be made. The study involves using semi-structured interview questions to record the narratives of 21 parents and caregivers of children with special needs and 7 professionals. In-depth individual interviews were conducted with each person The findings suggested that whilst professionals considered their open approach enabled parents and caregivers to be fully informed, comments made by parents contradicted this view. Many parents expressed feelings of isolation and neglect as they remained ignorant of educational decisions and starved of information. Comments by participants are used to illustrate significant themes which emerged from the interviews. A participant questionnaire summarises relevant issues derived from the interview questions and provides the data presented in computer generated charts. In most cases, the responses indicated agreement with the statements. An analysis of the data shows many parents and caregivers have not been included in significant aspects of their child's education. Although there are compelling reasons for their non-participation, if recent educational policy aims to include students and their families in educational decision-making, there is much work to be done by educators to foster effective parent/professional partnerships.