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Ideas and Challenges When Working with Families Assignment:

Often, families of children with special needs are concerned about their child, particularly if they are beginning the IFSP or IEP process. Read through two of the three resources that explain how to support and partner with families:

ELL’s in Early Childhood Education: Recruiting Immigrant Families

Involving Immigrant Parents of Students with Disabilities

68 Involvement Ideas That Really Work

These articles are located under the Assignments section for this week.

Choose three ideas or concepts from each of the two resources (six ideas altogether) you feel are most important when partnering with families and you are most eager to try. Then do the following:

State the idea (and cite which article it came from)
Explain why this idea is important to utilize in the classroom.
Give an example of how this could be used in your classroom (do not use the examples mentioned in the articles)

Next, respond to this scenario:
Four-year-old Shaniqua and her family have joined your program this year. She has just been diagnosed with autism and has exhibited sensory processing issues and social issues (she does not verbalize to other children) within the classroom during the month she has been in your room. Each member of her family is at different points in the process of reacting to the diagnosis. Some of them are interested in learning more and some want Shaniqua to be tested further. Others are asking if she will grow out of this when she enters Kindergarten. As the classroom’s head teacher, you want to be as helpful to the family as possible to ensure success during this year in your program.
Using the resources you read and any others you may find online, address each of the family member’s concerns:

    Find a family-friendly resource or website that you can give to the family giving evidence-based information about Shaniqua’s condition. Explain why this resource is helpful and give the website. Cite two things from the resource that you might highlight for the family.
    Find a local family support group to recommend to the family and explain why a support group may be helpful. Consider and explain which family member may be interested in a support group and why you think this would be helpful for them.
    Find a local resource for the family where they can get more information about autism and explain how you give this to the family and when.
    Finally, find two resources explaining evidence-based practices to use in order to help address the social issues and sensory issues within the classroom that you could also give to the family to try implementing at home.

Explain 3 activities you could use both in the classroom and at home. Explain what issues each would address and why these activities are helpful to Shaniqua. Be sure to cite the websites you used to find the evidence-based practice.

Copyright © 1996 The Parent Institute

68 Parent Involvement Ideas That
Really Work

1. Know THE SECRET to getting
parents to attend meetings at
school—make sure they know
they’re genuinely invited.

2. Establish a friendly contact with
parents early in the year, “In Time
of Peace.”

3. Insist that teachers not wait until its
too late to tell parents about
potentially serious problems. Early
contact helps.

4. Ask teachers to make at least two
positive phone calls to parents each
week. Add a phone line or two if
needed. Parent communication is a
cost-effective investment.

5. Remember the 3 “F”s for suc-
cess—Food, Families, Fun.

6. Focus on the strengths of fami-
lies—they know their children better
than anyone else. Find ways to get
that information to teachers, other
school staff.

7. Learn how to deal with angry
parents—separate the parent from
the argument he is making. Use
active listening. Don’t get angry.
Look for areas of agreement, “We
both want your child to do well.”
Find a win-win solution. If you’re
not sure about a parent suggestion
say, “I’ll certainly keep that in
mind.” If necessary, devise a
temporary solution.

8. Provide a brief parent newsletter.
One sheet of paper is best.

9. Remember “30-3-30” in writing
school newsletters. Eighty percent of
people will spend just 30 seconds
reading it. Nineteen percent will
spend three minutes. One percent
will spend 30 minutes (your

10. Remember the dollar bill rule for
newsletters. A dollar bill placed
anywhere, at any angle, on any page
should touch some element of
graphic interest—headline, box,
screen, bullets _, bold type,
picture—or it’s too dull for most
people to read.

11. Develop written policies encour-
aging parent involvement. If it’s not
in policy, the message is we don’t
care much about it.

12. Write for parents at 4th to 6th grade
level. Use a computer to check the
reading level.

13. Know why parents say they are not
involved: 1) Don’t have time, 2)
Don’t know what to do, 3) Don’t
know it is important, 4) Don’t speak

14. Take heart from the “one-third rule.”
Research says if you can get one-
third of a school’s parents involved,
you can begin to make significant
improvement in student

15. Be aware that teachers are more
reluctant to contact parents than vice
versa. Solution: get parents and
teachers together—just as
people—in comfortable social

16. Stress two-way communication
between schools and parents. “One-
way” isn’t communication.

17. Conduct school surveys to reveal
family attitudes about your school.

18. Use “key communicators” to control
the rumor mill. Keep those to whom
others turn for school information
well informed, especially the three
“B”s—b arbers, bartenders & beauty
shop operators.

19. Use simple evaluation forms to get
parent feedback on every meeting or
event. If we ask, they will tell us
what they want.

20. Try “quick notes” home—notes the
day something happens. A parent
helps the child wi

“Parents are their child’s first

How many times have you heard
this platitude, usually at workshops
about how to involve parents in their
children’s education? The challenge
for educators of children from immi-
grant families is to figure out how to
engage parents from ethnic and lin-
guistic backgrounds different from
their own (see box, “Overview of
Current U.S. Immigration”). What if
the parents speak Urdu or Hmong,
Somali or Chinese, and the only for –
eign-language teacher or resource
person at the school is the Spanish
teacher? This article provides many
practical suggestions, tactics, and
resources for questing educators
who are sincere in their desire to
involve all parents.

Parental involvement in the edu-
cation of children with disabilities in
the United States is a legal right
mandated with the passage of the
Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (Public Law 94-142,
1975), further strengthened in P.L.
101-476 (1990), and in the most
recent reauthorization of P.L. 105-17
(1997). Unfortunately, despite the 25
years of such mandates, U.S. special
education programs still lack active
involvement and participation from
parents of diverse cultural and lin-
guistic backgrounds (Thorp, 1997).

Barriers to Participation by
Immigrant Parents of Students
with Disabilities
Several potential barriers limit par-
ents’ participation in their children’s
education in the school setting.
Knowledge and understanding of
these barriers is the first step toward
bridging them. (See “Resources”
boxes for helpful instructional tools
and other useful resources.)


Limited English-language proficien-
cy is a major factor that affects par-
ent participation in the school sys-
tem (Holman, 1997; Sileo, Prater, &
Sileo, 1996; Turnbull & Turnbull,

2001). Parents with limited English
proficiency may not feel confident
communicating with school person-
nel and, in fact, might feel intimidat-
ed by highly educated school person-
nel (Holman, 1997). New or
unskilled English-language speakers
should be encouraged to use their
native language (with appropriate
supports) to gain and give informa-
tion about their child’s education.

Further, these parents might not
understand the special educational
needs and the nature of their child’s
disability (Thomas, Correa, &
Morsink , 2000). For example, they
may not be able to read the reports
that teachers are sending home—in
some cases, even when the report is
in their native language. Some par-
ents may be illiterate in their native

On the other hand, some parents
may have strong English sk ills and
want to communicate in English.
These parents will be able to gain a
full understanding of their child’s
educational process through tradi-
tional home-school communication.
• First, try to assess and understand

the language needs of each immi-
grant family. Your first task is to
ask parents if they are comfortably


Involving Immigra

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