Family Involvement

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family involvement.jpg Most educators and parents will say that family involvement is a key to a student's success. However, family involvement will be defined differently for each family. Respecting parents educational goals, support strategies, and concerns is the first step in developing a positive and collaborative relationship. Although a student is with you for the school day, the main constant and support for a child comes from his family. Families are a key member of any team!

Today's families have a broad configuration. A family might mean parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, guardians, foster parents, siblings, or other nontraditional family. In addition, a family's cultural background impacts families expectations, communication methods, and educational philosophy. Learn more about how to respectfully work with all families by clicking HERE for a tip sheet.

Do not forget your own cultural influence! Self reflection will allow you to understand how your own culture will influence you, your work, and your approach with families.  In the resource section, you will find ways to assess your own beliefs. 


As shown below, the Taxonomy (Kohler, 1996) identifies three components of family involvement that support families to actively involved during the secondary transition process. Family involvement, family empowerment, and family training are interdependent. While they have independent definitions, it is difficult to achieve one without the other two.

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 Family Involvement

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We have established that family involvement is unique for every student. Research has shown that family involvement has a positive impact on student outcomes. For example, the National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center has reviewed data to show that "students with one or more parents who participated in IEP meetings during the 11th and 12th grade year were more likely to be engaged in post-school employment."(2011)

college girl.jpg As their child's teacher, parents will frequently turn to you for advice on attaining transition skills and practicing skills within the family. Increase the opportunities for a student to practice his skills through home and school coordination. Examples include:


Giving families specific activities to consider practicing at home with their child, may lead to increased family involvement in their child's education and better postsecondary outcomes. Here are some specific ideas of for families:

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  Adapted from Sitlington, P. & Clark, G. (2006).

Evidence-based Practice: Communication Strategies with Families

One of the challenges that school personnel frequently convey is lack of parent attendance and involvement in school activities. Communicating effectively with parents is an essential link between school and home. Many times parents are asked in broad terms to be involved at school (e.g., "We welcome all volunteers".). Recent research has shown parent involvement increases when there is direct and specific communication between the teacher and the family (Xu, Pruvis & Terpstra, 2010).


Click HERE to learn more about family involvement of secondary students.

Click HERE for a podcast for more information on parents preparing for a transition case conference.

Click HERE for an informative article entitled "Ten Tips That Could Help Your Child's Transition to Adulthood" from the PACER Center.

Division for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Exceptional Learners (DDEL)

DDEL is a special interest group of the  Council for Exceptional Children  (CEC). DDEL advances educational opportunities for culturally and linguistically diverse learners with disabilities and/or gifts and talents, their families, and the professionals who serve them. It is the only professional organization dedicated exclusively to the concerns of culturally and linguistically diverse exceptional learners.


Life After High School Toolkit
Toolkit full of strategies, tools, and resources for families of youth with disabilities to assist in creating successful transition plans.


National Center for Cultural Competence

The mission of the National Center for Cultural Competence (NCCC) is to increase the capacity of health and mental health programs to design implement, and evaluate culturally and linguistically competent service delivery systems.


NICHCY National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities

NICHCY is a national source of information on disabilities in infants, toddlers, children, and youth. Their vast resources include articles and publications, fact sheets, newsletter, as well as providing personal assistance to parents and families.


  Transition Parent Briefs
Materials from the PACER Center

Transition to Adulthood
Information on transition from the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities.

Family Training

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Family training is an essential component in quality transition programs. Family training may create a stimulus for family involvement and strengthen family empowerment. Throughout this module, we have provided you with resources which may benefit not only educators, but also families. Across Indiana there are multiple avenues for families to receive training from national, state, or local organizations. Here are some highlights of transition-related groups which may offer training or resources.


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IN*SOURCE is parent advocacy organization. They provide assistance, support services and educational resources to the community of individuals and organizations that serve and support persons with disabilities. IN*SOURCE offers online training as well as state, regional, local and individual family trainings. A calendar of activities can be found on their website with current activities. Click here for training descriptions .


Indiana ASK is a non-profit organization where families and professionals in Indiana go to "ASK" questions about children with special needs and to access information and resources about a variety of topics such as health insurance, special education, community resources and medical homes. ASK provides online training and publications. Click here to read training descriptions.


INDATA Project located at Easterseals Crossroads provides services including:


INDATA offers weekly tech tips through their website which demonstrate piece of assistive technology, software or application to increase individuals with disabilities independence.

In addition, there may be local organizations or support groups that provide training in your community.The Arc of Indiana maintains an events calendar of activities across the state. Click HERE to see The Arc's calendar. You may identify training opportunities by contacting a local disability organization such as Area Agency on Aging, United Way, Fifth Freedom, or disability specific support groups.

Family Empowerment

family empowerment bulletin.jpg When teachers share information and resources with families and encourage them to be equal contributors in the transition process,families become empowered. Family empowerment is achieved by:

Empowered families are more likely to have higher expectations for their children. Family expectations influence the child's achievements and engagement in school (NTLS2, National Council on Rehabilitation, Arlington VA 10/28/09).

NTLS2 research goes on to conclude that "If other factors are equal, youth with disabilities whose parents expect them to go on to postsecondary education after high school have more positive engagement and achievements while in high school than youth whose parents do not." This reiterates the necessity of focusing on family involvement, family training, and family empowerment to improve the transition outcomes of our students.



 Beach Center on Disability The Beach Center on Disability focuses on family quality of life. Resources and information are available in the following domains: Emotional Well-Being, Parenting, Family Interaction, Physical/Material Well-Being, and Disability-related Support.


Family Voices

Family Voices aims to achieve family-centered care for all children and youth with special health care needs and/or disabilities. Through their national network, Family Voices provides families tools to make informed decisions, advocates for improved public and private policies, builds partnerships among professionals and families, and serves as a trusted resource on health care.


Fifth Freedom

The Fifth Freedom Network is a grassroots, cross-disability, consumer organization dedicated to removing the physical and social barriers that often hold people with disabilities hostage to poverty, isolation and underachievement. Fifth Freedom members come together to learn about government processes, disability rights, and state and national legislative change initiatives.


Indiana Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health (IFFCMH)

The mission of IFFCMH is to create and grow networks of support, education, intervention, leadership and advocacy, thereby empowering families to facilitate growth and development for their children who have emotional, behavioral or mental challenges while also creating and maintaining a positive environment for all family members.


Indiana's Governor's Planning Council

The Indiana Governor's Council is an independent state agency that facilitates change. Its mission is to promote public policy which leads to the independence, productivity and inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of society. Their mission is accomplished through planning, evaluation, collaboration, education, research and advocacy.

PACER Center

The mission of PACER Center (Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights) is to expand opportunities and enhance the quality of life of children and young adults with disabilities and their families, based on the concept of parents helping parents. The PACER Center website contains resources and online training material.


The Arc

The Arc of Indiana is committed to all people with developmental disabilities realizing their goals of learning, living, working and playing in the