Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Executive Leadership

First Supervisor

Jason Berman

Second Supervisor

Caroline C. Critchlow


This qualitative study explored the underlying beliefs of parents who have children with autism and chairpersons of the Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE)/Committee on Special Education (CSE). Specifically, beliefs that promote trust and diminish conflict were of primary interest, as high rates of litigation were well documented with this group of parents in the United States. The theory of defensive reasoning (Argyris, 1999) was the lens used to analyze the dynamic. The themes identified provide insight into the promotion of trust and the reduction of conflict at the CPSE/CSE. The findings revealed two distinctly different expectations within the parent group of participants: parents who expect the worst (n=3), and parents who expect to figure it out (n=9). The chairperson participants reported that most parents, new to the process, expected the worst. Chairpersons (n=9) reported that they were able to form collaborative relationships with most parents. Chairpersons and most parents reported common underlying beliefs that they attributed to the formation of collaborative relationships. This study revealed new insights associated with the underlying beliefs of each group of participants. Most parents in this study reported a lack of conflict and described the chairperson as an ally. It was also found that chairpersons may falsely believe in potential threat at the CPSE/CSE, as chairperson expectations and beliefs were ultimately well aligned with those of most parents. The sharing of underlying beliefs between parents and chairpersons is not uniformly practiced at the CPSE/CSE. These findings are discussed including implications for parents, parent advocates, chairpersons, and future research.

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