Category Archives: International Special Education

Special Education From an International Perspective

Star Island- 8 textIn the fall of 2014, professor Sarah J. Denman of the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, wrote an article for the International Journal of Disability in which she reviewed our book in the context of special education around the world. You can read an abstract of Professor Denman’s review of our book.

Titled “Parents as Experts on Children with Disabilities: Being Prepared for the Long-Haul,” Ms. Denman used Parents Have the Power to Make Special Education Work to compare the resources parents have in other countries to our descriptions of special education in the United States.

We Are Not Alone

The article brings together literature from many international sources and cites studies from Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as North America, describing the development of state and federal laws regarding the education of children with disabilities. This was very interesting for us, as our experience with special education is limited to the United States.

For example, it was a revelation that special education laws internationally closely parallel those in the United States, with an emphasis on inclusion in the least restrictive environment, IEP meetings, and the recurring cycle of special education, from referral, evaluation, meetings, goals and services, progress reports, yearly review, and re-evaluation. As the article points out: “This cycle is shared by parents regardless of their location in the world.”

Clearly, those of us in the U.S. have much to share with and learn from other parents around the world.

Parents as Experts

Professor Denman writes “A recurring theme in Parents Have the Power to Make Special Education Work is the role of parents as active participants, advocates, learners, and listeners within the special education experience…” It is this observation around which her essay is built, as she cites numerous articles published by academic researchers on special education techniques, but points out that few of these studies “extended to include a practical guide for parents.”

In fact, Ms. Denman believes that special education “professionals” have historically disregarded the value of parent participation, writing that: “Previously, the role of parents as `experts’ on their child with a disability was not widely accepted…” She feels that this is at least partly because before the publication of our book, there were few “…easy-to-read resources available for parents wanting to define and extend their role in the special education system.” By contrast, she writes, that our book is “a practical guide of the special education process…”

Encouragement for the Long-Haul

It is no accident that the essay’s subtitle is “Being Prepared for the Long-Haul.” Special education is the proverbial marathon, and parents must be psychologically prepared for the years ahead. It was therefore pleasing to us that the article ends with a mention of our Afterword in which we describe our son’s success in ultimately obtaining a college degree. “This Afterword may serve as an encouragement to parents who may not be confident of their ability in the demanding special education process ahead of them,” she writes.

In this one sentence, professor Denman has written as good a summary of our intentions as we can imagine, and it informs all of our efforts in writing our book and maintaining this blog. We hope that what we have written has encouraged you.

Judith Canty Graves and Carson Graves

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