Starting school : the expectations of parents of disabled children
The focus of this study is twofold. Firstly, it aims to find out more about parents’ expectations as their disabled child starts school and secondly, to explore ways in which parents of disabled children can become involved in the research process. Legislation sets out what parents have the right to expect in terms of their child’s education and current government initiatives and policies are encouraging parents to play a more significant role in the development of services. Yet services for disabled children and their parents continue to adopt a needs based approach. Such an approach is contrary to the social model of disability that focuses on removing the barriers that prevent disabled people being included in society. By adopting a social model of disability the study aims to conduct the research from the parents’ perspective. To this end it attempts to develop a parent participatory research approach which is derived from an emancipatory research approach advocated by disabled researchers and their allies. It investigates methods whereby parents of disabled children can participate in developing the research methods used and be offered a voice to express what is of importance to them. This research study is a longitudinal study that investigates the expectations of 19 parents of disabled children as their child moves into school. It helps to identify the sources, nature and outcome of their expectations and so the barriers that can help and/or hinder positive outcomes. The implications of the findings are discussed in terms of parent’s knowledge and understanding of their child’s disability, relationships developed between parents, professionals and practitioners, the effect of government policy and the disabled people’s movement for social change.