Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

William Pfohl, Marsha Roit, Carl Martray

Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


The passage of Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, mandates that parents of a handicapped child must be included in the educational planning and placement procedures for their child. The law requires (1) parent counseling and (2) parent participation in the planning of the child’s educational career. Yet almost six years after the passage of Public Law 94-142, the role of parent which emerges today appears to be one of passive involvement in the Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) process. The literature suggests this lack of active participation possibly stems from several sources: the parents’ inadequate knowledge, discomfort when interacting with school personnel, confusion in regard to the educational decision-making process, and school encouraged noninvolvement in the IEP meeting. Thus while Public Law 94-142 stresses active parent involvement, the schools’ discouragement of parental responsibilities along with the parents’ limited knowledge and understanding of the law and their role in the process may combine to actively discourage parental participation in the education of their handicapped child. The literature suggests that limited resources exist for parents of newly identified school-aged educable mentally handicapped (EMH), or mildly handicapped children. In general, parents of these children do not have the necessary information or skills for effective involvement in the educational process nor are they receiving supportive counseling. In order to address the specific needs of these parents, an educational-counseling program was developed. The purpose of the program is fourfold: (1) to inform parents about handicapping conditions, legal issues and mandates pertaining to the education of handicapped children, educational assessment and placement procedures and parents’ role in the education of handicapped children, (2) to develop the parents’ repertoire of communication and assertiveness skills necessary for securing appropriate educations for their handicapped children, (3) to provide emotional support and encouragement to the parents, and (4) to increase the parents’ awareness of available resource materials, organizations, and personnel dealing with the education of handicapped children. Various methods and materials are utilized in the Parent Education-Counseling Program to accomplish its goals. Formative and summative evaluations are incorporated in order to determine the extent to which the program is implemented as planned and to assess its effects. A pilot trial of the program utilizing a single set of parent participants was conducted to determine the feasibility and practicality of the methods and materials. Evaluation of the pilot trial indicated that the parents of a newly identified EMH child were capable of increasing their knowledge bases regarding issues and procedures for educating a handicapped child, learning rules of communication, becoming more aware of their feelings related to their EMH child, and accepting information about available resource materials and organizations. The evaluation information therefore suggests positive results of the program is to help parents become effective advocates for their handicapped child, follow-up of the parents’ effectiveness in future school-based meetings is needed to determine whether these short-term program effects will generalize within the school system.


Disability and Equity in Education | Education | Education Law | Legal Studies | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences