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Friday, September 3, 2021

Special Education Legislative Advocacy

 In The Politics of Autism, I write about special education and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

Meghan Burke, Zachary Rossetti & Chak Li have an article at The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders titled "The Efficacy and Impact of a Special Education Legislative Advocacy Program Among Parents of Children with Disabilities."  The abstract:

With the looming reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), it is important for parent input to inform legislative changes. Unfortunately, parent input has been limited in past IDEA reauthorizations. Thus, it is critical to develop and test interventions to improve parent legislative advocacy. With 37 parents of children with disabilities, we conducted a randomized controlled trial to determine the efficacy and impact of an advocacy program. Results indicate significant increases in special education knowledge and special education legislative advocacy activities for the intervention (versus waitlist-control) group. However, there were no significant changes in civic engagement. Implications for research and practice are discussed.

From the article:

First, participants demonstrated significant increases in special education knowledge and legislative advocacy activities. Regarding special education knowledge, these results are consistent with prior studies showing that parent advocacy programs increase participants’ special education knowledge (Burke & Sandman, 2017; Burke et al., 2016). Notably, this study was the frst to do so with an RCT. Knowledge of special education policy refects a strong foundation for potential legislative advocacy as prior studies indicate that parents report insufcient knowledge as a barrier to legislative advocacy (Burke et al., 2018; Trainor, 2010). Regarding special education legislative activities, our results are consistent with prior research showing that an advocacy program increased legislative advocacy activities (Burke & Sandman, 2017). Again, the current study was the frst to do so with an RCT. Prior research has shown that parents of children with disabilities perceived legislative advocacy as less efective than individual advocacy for their own child (Wright & Taylor, 2014). Our results suggest the efcacy of a legislative advocacy programs, which may help enable parents in overcoming barriers to advocacy.

Second, the program did have a signifcant impact on legislative advocacy activities. In addition, intervention group participants specifcally engaged in advocacy that reached over 300 individuals. This is consistent with prior research demonstrating that advocacy programs resulted in increased engagement in legislative advocacy (Burke & Sandman, 2017). With a shorter 3-month follow-up period of legislative advocacy activities compared to a 6-month follow-up in the pilot study (Burke & Sandman, 2017), this study’s results show a more immediate impact. Additionally, participants provided written responses describing other advocacy activities, such as fundraising and volunteering for important causes, belonging to school or disability committees and parent special education advocacy groups, and soliciting media involvement for important causes. These data refect types of engagement in legislative advocacy that may be more desirable and/or possible for parents compared to directly contacting or meeting with legislators, which they engaged in less and may seem intimidating (Burke & Sandman, 2017)