Involving the family

Understanding the role and significance of each team member in the process of developing a plan for a student with disabilities is a dance of choices, wills, vision, and knowledge. There are many roles that enter the into the process; assessment specialist, educator, facilitator (special education case manager), parent, family members, and most important: student. Each person has a role to play and it is with care that each role should be defined and supported. The parent/family (besides the student) is the most important because they are not only stakeholders in the outcome of their child, but also have the most knowledge about their child’ growth and development. Developing and maintaining involvement is key to a successful foundation for the student.

Communication: Davern discusses the need for communication. “Positive connections with families are fundamental to providing a high-quality education for children.” (pg . 22) As team members in a process of providing support, effective communication bridges the gap between home and school.
1. Ask Parents How They Wish to Communicate
2. Ask Parents What They Wish to Communicate About
3. Use Good judgment About What Is Appropriate for Brief Notes
4. Write in Such a Way That Parents Will Want to Read the Message
5. Strive for Clarify
6. Reread Notes for Possible Misinterpretations of Tone or Meaning Before Sending Home

Person Centered is an approach designed to build partnerships between families and professionals:
1. The student is placed in the center of the planning process
2. All team members, including the student and the family are involved as contributors in the planning process
3. All members take a positive and proactive view of the student by focusing on strengths and abilities rather than the disability
4. Consideration of the student’s strengths, interests, and dreams are central to the process and forma the basis for understanding and determining educational needs
5. Current plans and goals developed are viewed as a stepping stone for reaching dreams and plans for the future. (Turnbull, Turnbull, 2006)

True Directions: employs specially designed forms for families, students, and team members in order to maximize the involvement of participants and to capitalize on the relevant information that all key players have to offer. By implementing data outcomes in strategies, the role of the parent is extended into a team level of expertise.
Strategies for Increasing the Number of Parents in Leadership and Decision-making Roles:
Create positions that extend relationships:

1) Have that parent contact other parents
i) welcome new parents to the school
ii) help resolve conflicts between the home and school
iii) Actively seek parents’ opinions and support.

2. Offer leadership training: Bring in a trainer or develop leadership training workshop for both parents and staff.

3. Do a parent check-in: Before there is an urgent need to make decisions

4. Discuss these problems before a crisis occurs. This offers parents an opportunity to play an active role in these very critical areas.

5. Deal with conflict promptly
i) Explore the issues with a neutral facilitator who will help set boundaries for the discussion and guide parties in developing common purposes, methods for working together, and timelines and check-in points to make sure that the resolution is achieved.

6. At the end of meetings, do an “ABC” evaluation
i) What action will you take as a result of the meeting?
ii) What was the best part of this meeting? What concerns do you have?

7. Recognize parents for their efforts. This will not only give credit where credit is due; it will help other parents to know who is representing them.

i) Recognize all of the efforts made by parents who serve on school advisory committees and in other decision-making roles. (Davis, 2000)

Many times parents enter a meeting with concerns, fears, and frustration. Many times parents leave a meeting angry and alienated. Establishing positive communication that seeks to enter each member of the team into active roles is the first step in building a positive forward moving foundation.

Davern, L. (2004). School-to-home notebooks: What parents have to say. Teaching Exceptional Children, 36(5), 22-27. Retrieved from
Turnbull, A., & Turnbull, R. (2006). Families, professionals, and exceptionality: Collaborating for empowerment. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
Davis, D. (2000) Supporting Parent, Family, and Community Involvement in Your School: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory