Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Psychology: School Psychology

First Advisor

Corinne Zimmerman


This study focused on the emotional responses of parents of school-aged children who read a vignette describing an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting. The vignette used either specific or generic language to label the participants’ relationship to the child who meets the eligibility criteria for Specific Learning Disability. The label used was either a specific “Your Child” description or a generic description of “A Child.” Further, the vignettes were presented either with or without technical professional jargon commonly used in an IEP setting.

In a pilot study, parents provided emotional response ratings for the 13 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) eligibility categories. Eligibility categories were rated more negatively in the Your Child condition compared to the Control condition, demonstrating the impact of label on parents’ perception of IEP categories. Specific Learning Disability (SLD) was chosen as the IDEA eligibility category for use in Study 2 vignette because it is common in schools and it was not rated as emotionally negative as other eligibility categories, thus allowing a realistic but not overly negative context within which to examine the effects of label type and professional jargon on emotional reactivity and feelings of collaboration.

In Study 2, four vignettes describing a child with a SLD in reading (i.e., dyslexia) were created by manipulating Label (“Your Child” vs. “A Child”) and Jargon (Yes vs. No) and were divided into five blocks: (1) Identifying Concerns, outlining the reading concerns; (2) Labeling the Problem, using the name of the suspected disorder, dyslexia; (3) Assessment Methods, either specific validated and normed copywritten assessment methods in the jargon condition vs. nonspecific generic methods in the no jargon condition; (4) Qualifying for IEP, stating eligibility for an IEP because of SLD; and (5) Accommodations Proposed, describing the help to be provided. Participants rated their emotional response after each block. Participants then rated their feelings of collaboration with school personnel using a 12-item scale developed for this study. I hypothesized that parents in the “Your Child” group would report more negative emotions and lower feelings of cooperation compared to those in the “A Child” group. Further, I hypothesized that the presence of Jargon would have an impact on both emotional reactivity and feelings of cooperation relative to an IEP meeting described using everyday language.

The Jargon and Label manipulations had different effects depending on the type of information in the vignette. When considering Assessment Methods, parents’ emotional responses were more positive when Jargon was used compared to everyday language. The effects of jargon were evident with respect to feelings of collaboration. Parents who read vignettes without jargon reported greater feelings of collaboration than those who read vignettes with jargon. Parent reactions were also influence by whether or not they already had a child with an IEP or 504 Plan. Those with an IEP/504 Plan background reported more negative emotions and lower feelings of collaboration when presented with jargon. Participants who reported they had an immediate family history of dyslexia also responded more negatively to jargon and reported lower feelings of collaboration. Implications for practice are outlined.

KEYWORDS: emotional response; cooperation; collaboration; Individualized Education Program


Imported from Gallaway_ilstu_0092E_11806.pdf


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