Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Special Education and Literacy Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth Whitten

Second Advisor

Dr. Luchara Wallace

Third Advisor

Dr. Alice Woodrow


IEP process, autism, parents' experiences, Saudi Arabia, teachers, individual educational plan


Nationally, research on special education has emphasized the importance of involving parents in the individual educational plan (IEP) process (Al-Herz, 2008; Angel, Stoner, & Shelden, 2009; Hebel & Persitz, 2014; Hobbs & Silla, 2008; Hui-Chen & Mason, 2008). The IEP is a blueprint for special education and related special education services in the United States and other countries (Alquraini, 2013; Hebel & Persitz, 2014; Martin et al., 2006; Tal, 2009; Yell, Katsiyannis, Ennis, & Losinki, 2013). Development and implementation of effective educational programs for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) involve collaboration with parents (Hebel & Persitz, 2014). However, the participation of parents in the IEP process continues to challenge schools (Hebel & Persitz, 2014). It is essential for teachers and school personnel to understand the experiences of families of children with autism, the interventions they access, and the important role that schools play in their lives (Hebel & Persitz, 2014; Martin et al., 2006; Tal, 2009; Yell et al., 2013). With these insights and a commitment to collaborate, parents and teachers can work together to create positive and effective educational programs for students.

The purpose of this qualitative study is to achieve an understanding of the perceptions and experiences of the IEP process of a sample of Saudi and U.S. parents of students with ASD by: (a) comparing their experiences and identifying factors influencing their participation to infer whether the parents were involved in the IEP process; (b) assessing the similarities and differences between the two countries in the factors that affected parents' involvement in the IEP process; and (b) exploring the participants’ perceptions of the IEP process to determine the best strategies that may have an impact on parental involvement in the IEP process in the context of the two different cultures.

Data collection in this study involved interviewing twelve parents representing ten cases of students with autism who have IEPs. Through analysis of parents’ responses, five main themes related to the involvement of parents in the IEP process became apparent: (A) IEP as defined by parents, (B) factors influencing parents’ involvement in the IEP, (C) parents’ description of the IEP process, (D) barriers to parent involvement in the IEP, and (E) recommended strategies to increase parents’ involvement.

Research findings indicate that parents in the U.S. tend to be more involved and more knowledgeable of the IEP process compared to Saudi parents. The results of this study also show that Saudi parents continue to struggle to participate meaningfully in the IEP due to the lack of communication with school personnel and the limitation of IEP meetings in the school. All parents further revealed that having ongoing communication, building positive relationships with educators, and being involved in different support groups are essential factors that influenced their participation in the IEP. Finally, findings highlight the need for more parental training and more public education in subjects related to IEP and special education procedures.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

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Education Commons