Bowen, Sandy

Committee Member

Melloy, Kristine

Committee Member

Peterson, Lori Y.

Committee Member

Moser, Erin


College of Education and Behavioral Sciences; School of Special Education, Special Education


University of Northern Colorado

Type of Resources


Place of Publication

Greeley, (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created



189 pages

Digital Origin

Born digital


Legally coordinated transition plans have been the expectation since the Individual with Disabilities Education Act of 1990 (IDEA, 1990). Research is firm that parent participation and high expectations are evidence-based practices supporting improved outcomes in post-secondary environments (Mazzotti et al., 2016; Test, Mazzotti et al., 2009). Yet, these two expectations, which should work synchronously, often seem to be out of sync. This qualitative phenomenological study aimed to give voice to the parents of children with significant support needs (SSN; Colorado Department of Education, 2017). The researcher explored the parent’s perceptions in the transition planning process, specifically evaluating their role in the process, including probing feelings of self-efficacy and collaboration. The research questions: Q1 How do parents perceive their roles in the transition team? Q2 How is parent collaboration/participation in the transition process recorded or documented within the Individual Education Program (IEP) transition paperwork? Q3 How do perceived feelings of self-efficacy or knowledge of the transition process of students with significant support needs contribute to the desire to collaborate? The study’s format was three focus groups of 12 parent stakeholders who were asked, through semi-structured questions, to reflect on their lived experiences of the transition process for their child with significant support needs (SSN). The group transcriptions were coded through the constant-comparison method and axial coding. Within the determined categories of Collaboration, Self-Efficacy, and Parent Role five Main Themes emerged: Trust, Transition Programming, Advocacy, Individual Education Program Team Roles, and Time and Toll. The themes and associated subthemes determined the parents’ perception of their primary role: advocating for their child and advocating for other families and children with significant support needs in the transition process. The parents indicated that their successes in the fight for services for their student would benefit all students. Parents reflected that once they established their role as advocates, they felt that the rest of the team respected and appreciated their input. Still, the underlying feeling of “us against them” persisted. Parent transition input in the IEP documentation emerged as inconsistent and incomplete. Parent perception of the documentation did not align with the reality of the IEP paperwork. This deficit underlined the importance of the parent voice in the process. In order to create substantial and relevant transition plans, the primary stakeholder’s voice must be represented, and for this population of students, it is the parent speaking for the child with SSN. Therefore, it is crucial their concerns and input are accurately recorded. Finally, the parent’s feelings of self-efficacy in relation to collaboration were examined. This question was examined in two parts a) increasing feelings of self-efficacy and b) the desire to collaborate. The parents felt the obtainment of transition knowledge and the knowledge application were the most difficult and resulted in significant time and emotional toll. Parents communicated increasing their self-efficacy levels was a singular and isolating experience, and the schools were not an equal partner. The aspect of self-efficacy affecting collaborative was reviewed through the lens of the theoretical framework of Bandura’s (1977) Self-efficacy theory and the Collaborative Theory (Kumar & Paddison, 2000). The element of trust was the glue to positive collaboration. All parents indicated positive collaboration occurred when trust existed with the team. Had they understood the transition process earlier and were more confident in their abilities, the collaboration levels may have increased. This study’s findings provide valuable insights regarding the perception of parents’ selfefficacy in the transition process and their understanding of their roles on the transition team. There is no existing research on the parent stakeholder’s self-efficacy or the specific roles they feel they play on the transition team. This study contributes to the limited existing research base, specifically targeting the parents of children with the most significant support needs and their challenges with transition IEP participation. This study’s results strongly support the formation of transition frameworks helping transition teams in the future identify areas of strengths and challenges in collaborative planning, ultimately affecting students with SSN outcomes. Keywords: parent partnerships, transition, significant support needs, post-secondary, collaboration, focus groups, self-efficacy

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Copyright is held by the author.