Stakeholder perspectives on special education advocates and their support to families
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This qualitative study examines the experiences of key stakeholders such as school administrators, the families of children with emotional and behavioral disabilities, special education advocates and the representatives of the advocacy organization that train them and their perceptions of the characteristics and core competencies that make special education advocates helpful in their support to families. A thematic analysis of the interview transcripts yielded the following findings: 1) The low barrier to entry into special education advocacy leads to inconsistent approaches, 2) Differing perceptions of what motivates stakeholders create tension during IEP meetings, 3) Special education advocates serve as the voices of parents, 4) Advocates affect the emotional well-being of parents during IEP meetings positively, 5) Meetings are objectively and qualitatively different when advocates attend. The research findings also reveal that special education advocates who are helpful to families embody the following qualities and core competencies: 1) Knowledge of special education laws and procedures, 2) relationship building skills, 3) communication skills, 4) familiarity with available resources to support families. Specific recommendations targeted for each group of stakeholders were provided.
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