Publication Details

Conley Wright, A. & Taylor, S. (2014). Advocacy by parents of young children with special needs: Activities, processes, and perceived effectiveness. Journal of Social Service Research, 40 (5), 591-605.


This article examines parental advocacy for young children with disabilities using a subset of data drawn from a larger exploratory and descriptive study on parental advocacy for children with disabilities from birth to age 18 with a sample of 400 participants. Because this article focuses on parents of children from birth to age 6, only parents (n = 76) meeting this criterion were selected. Data were collected through an online survey, with a snowball sample generated through e-mail lists and social media groups. The survey included questions on demographics, types of advocacy settings, perceived effectiveness of advocacy efforts, and an example of a successful advocacy effort. Parental advocacy was most common in schools, medical clinics, social services, and social media and involved processes such as educating oneself about the child's condition and rights for services, educating others including professionals, and making persistent efforts. These findings suggest advocacy on behalf of children with disabilities starts early and is important from birth to age 6. Policy and social work practice should help parents with support, knowledge, and skills to be effective advocates for their children. Future research is recommended to explore the relationships between advocacy, empowerment, coping, and resilience in parents of children with special needs.



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