Pediatricians’ Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practice Patterns Regarding Special Education and Individualized Education Programs



      The medical community has called upon pediatricians to be knowledgeable about an individualized education program (IEP). We sought to: 1) evaluate pediatricians’ knowledge and attitudes regarding special education; 2) examine the relationship between perceived responsibilities and practice patterns; and 3) identify barriers that impact pediatricians’ ability to provide comprehensive care to children with educational difficulties.


      Surveys were mailed to a national sample of 1000 randomly selected general pediatricians and pediatric residents from October 2010 to February 2011.


      The response rate was 47%. Of the knowledge items, respondents answered an average of 59% correctly. The majority of respondents thought pediatricians should be responsible for identifying children who may benefit from special education services and assist families in obtaining services, but less than 50% thought they should assist in the development of an IEP. The majority of pediatricians inquired whether a child is having difficulty at school, but far fewer conducted screening tests or asked parents if they needed assistance obtaining services. Overall, the prevalence of considering a practice a pediatrician’s responsibility is significantly higher than examples of such a practice pattern being reported. Financial reimbursement and insufficient training were among the most significant barriers affecting a pediatrician’s ability to provide care to children with educational difficulties.


      In order to provide a comprehensive medical home, pediatricians must be informed about the special education process. This study demonstrates that there are gaps in pediatricians’ knowledge and practice patterns regarding special education that must be addressed.


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