• Christina Delgado, M.Ed.

Special Education and Parental Involvement

Goal of this blog post:

To motivate, educate, inspire, and prepare our school’s Special Education parents about effective parental involvement, its benefits, and relay strategies meant to increase rates of parental involvement in efforts to better educate and develop their children.

Foundation of the Issue:

For many decades, schools around the world share a lack of parental involvement.

  • —Parental involvement in the academic life of a student in special education is a powerful tool to reach high student achievement and bridge achievement gaps.

  • —Students achieve more educational success when families and schools unite to motivate, educate, and socialize students with special needs.

Parent Perspective: Potential Reasons for the Lack of Parental Involvement:

Common barriers:

  • —Not enough time with the teacher

  • —Feelings of frustration, confusion, and helplessness with the Special Education Process and legal standards.

  • —Teachers’ misconceptions of parents’ capabilities

  • —Limited at home resources

  • —Lack of access

  • —Lack of awareness

  • —Parent/teacher tension

  • —Lack of parent/teacher communication

  • —Linguistic

  • —Cultural

  • —Parent/teacher miscommunication

  • —Linguistic

  • —Cultural

Results of Effective Parental Involvement:


  • —Earn higher scores on tests

  • —Complete more homework

  • —Have better attendance

  • —Improve positive behaviors and attitudes

  • —Higher graduation rates

  • —Higher likelihood of enrolling in colleges, universities, or trade schools

Parents can:

  • —Get involved at home and at school

  • —Model effective learning behaviors

  • —Support productive and desirable choices

  • —Help and guide child to reach current goals and future goals.


  • —Several federal and state laws created to benefit those with special needs, highlight the importance of parent involvement and participation.

  • —The Department of Education created educational “blueprints,” which incorporates collaboration and engagement amongst parents and educators in efforts to improve educational programs.

  • —Parental involvement is the central and underpinning notion of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 (IDEA).

The Issue: Current Status:

Many schools still need to improve upon their parental involvement.

  • —Decades of research have identified that continuous parental involvement is imperative to bridging achievement gaps, supporting special needs students, building self esteem, and reaching success in their adult lives.

  • —Research shows that once parents become empowered, knowledgeable, and involved in the special education process, the students’ chances for reaching personal success increases.

  • —Our government insists that schools create strategies to incorporate parents in their child’s educational process. However, the government has not mandated any specific or uniformed strategies or requirements on how to get parents involved (Okeke, 2014).

  • —Parents may feel alone, frustrated, and/or helpless while in the world of special education, its laws, and requirements.

  • —It is common for parents feel like they want to help and guide their child, but do not know how to.

How the Lack of Parent Involvement Effects Your Child's Education:

  • —Grades & test scores suffer

  • —Limits student achievement on skills being taught

  • —Homework completion suffers

  • —Effects rates of opportunity to take advanced courses

  • —Attendance suffers

  • —Effects students' self esteem

  • —Effects students' motivation for school

  • —Increased drop out rates

  • —Value of education is lowered

  • —Undesired behaviors and attitudes may emerge

  • —Effect students social and communicative skills

Implications on the Educational Process:

1) Incomplete homework


  • —Homework is district mandated.

  • —Homework is meant to reinforce concepts and skills taught during school.

  • —Homework is not meant to be new or unfamiliar information.

  • —Consistency = retention = learning

  • —Students cannot be fully prepared for school or reach the peak of their academic success if previous lessons and concepts taught are still unclear or forgotten.

  • —Homework completion teaches responsibility, accountability, and should build self esteem by making the student confident about the topic studied.

2) Dwindling attendance

  • —When a student is inconsistent with their attendance, then routine is broken, instruction is lost, and achievement gaps grow.

  • —Each year that a child is in school is a foundational year for them. Their minds are still developing and they are still discovering the world, developing cognitive thinking, and learning how to problem solve.

  • —Academics are like building blocks. If a student missesfoundational information and attends school when more advanced concepts are being taught, the student will not have the prior knowledge needed to grasp new and advanced concepts.

3) Undesired behaviors and attitude

  • —When teaching a class, students vary in strengths, weaknesses, interests, and capacities. Other students’ learning are compromised in the case of reoccurring behavioral issues.

  • —Undesired student attitudes can also be distributive to the other students and classroom instruction being taught.

  • —Once the teacher needs to continually correct a student’s behavior and/or attitude, classroom time is lost and students are not able to maximize the instruction.

  • —Undesired behaviors and attitudes harm the classroom climate and unification.

  • —Other students will be exposed to these undesired behaviors and attitudes and may begin to replicate them. This replication heightens the loss of instruction for all students.

4) Drop out rates

  • —Often times, students who feel that their parents do not care about their learning or are not present effects their desire to learn, motivation, and desire to give effort.

  • —Once a student looses interest in school and continuously receives poor grades, self esteem may be effected.

  • —As a result, some students decide to leave school before graduation. Typically, they perceive that school has nothing to offer them.

Avoiding the drop out rate:

The Correlation

"I got good marks"... --> "So I'm clever"... --> "So I'm worth it"... (Performance) (Competence) (Self-Esteem)

Potential Parental Strategies & Interventions:

The following strategies and interventions are meant to heighten parental involvement amongst special education students:

  • —Define parental involvement

  • —Show parents how to get involved.

  • —Remove parent fear and mystery from the special education world.

  • —Parents of different backgrounds may have barriers due to linguistic and/or cultural differences.

  • —Continuous communication

1) Define parental involvement:

  • —Often times parents and educators have different definitions of what parental involvement encompasses.

  • —Special educators and administration need to be clear and set expectations and standards so that all stakeholders understand what is required in efforts to best assist each student.

Perceptions of what parent involvement includes:


  • Get children to school on time.

  • Solve at home problems related to school.

Special Educator:

  • Parents should be involved in the child’s educational process.

  • Parents should be present and involved inside of the school setting.

  • Parents should provide homework help.

2) Opportunities for Parental Involvement:

  • —Assist with homework

  • —Walk/drive child to school daily

  • —Assist studying

  • —Reinforce time management skills

  • —Reinforce academic and social skills taught in the classroom

  • —Become a classroom parent

  • —Continuous communication with staff

  • —Volunteer at the school

  • —Join school parent group

  • —Ask you child about their day at school.

  • —Read with your child.

  • —Continue learning at home.

  • —Be encouraging by building their self esteem, love for learning, and motivation.

  • —Attend individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings.

  • —Attend 504 meetings

  • —Check parent portal and student grades

  • —Continuous at home skill reinforcement

  • —At home support builds motivation towards school work.

  • —Teach and model desired behaviors, attitudes, and time management skills.

3) Remove parent fear and mystery from the operational structures of the special education world and its processes. Ways to build parent knowledge:

  • —Constant communication with your child's educators: email, phone, person to person, meetings, handwritten notes

  • —Ask special educators to provide you with materials pertaining to the world of special education, its laws, and its processes.

  • —Attend special education self help group meetings

  • —Make connections and build relationships with other parents of special needs students.

  • —Ask questions

  • —Learn from others’ experiences

  • —Build a community of individuals who can relate.

  • —Attend annual school seminar on special education

  • —Meet the ESE staff, school counselor, & administration

  • —Learn the ESE laws

  • —Briefing on ESE functions, benefits, & processes

  • —IEP meetings

  • —504 meetings

  • Accommodations/ modifications

4) Parents of different backgrounds may have barriers due to linguistic and/or cultural differences.

Parent perspective:

  • —It is common for non-English speaking parents to feel unwelcomed, unenclosed, or unimportant within the school setting. This is mainly due to the limited communication between staff and parents.

  • —However, staff members should culturally and linguistically mirror our student population.

Special Educator Solutions:

  • —Special educators should be aware of the cultural backgrounds in their classrooms and make a large effort to communicate with all parents.

  • —Special educators, along with the school, will distribute all parental materials in English, and will make their strongest efforts to provide such material in parents’ native languages.

  • —Ask educators to provide parents with linguistic support:

  • —School mandated documents should be sent home in English and in the parents’ native language.

  • If none of the special educators are able to communicate in the parent’s native language, designate a staff member in the school who is fluent the parent’s native language. If no one in the school is able to translate, designate the information for a staff member from the district to communicate.

  • —IEP meetings: translator is permitted

5) Continuous communication:

  • —Parents, teachers, and staff must all be on the same page about strategies that will be implemented in order to maximize optimal results, bridge achievement gaps, and meet goals.

  • —Ask teachers to inform you of parent involvement strategies/opportunities that will be present in the school and in their child’s classroom during particular weeks in school. Teachers will communicate how these strategies can be executed and implemented at home. Additional strategies may be added if additional support is needed.

  • —Ask your child's educators for continuous communication and collaboration in efforts to execute strategies in school and at home. Communication may occur through:

  • —Email

  • —Parent/teacher meetings

  • —Newsletters

  • —Fliers

  • —Word of mouth

  • —Phone call

Parent Involvement in 2 Minutes:

How often do you assist your child with the following tasks?

Parents, ask yourself…

  • —How can I get more involved with my child at home?

  • —How can I get more involved at school?

  • —Which type of communication works best for me, my schedule, and the teacher?

  • —How does me getting more involved effect my child developmentally, academically, and socially?

  • —Will getting more involved effect my family unit? How so?

  • —What topics am I unclear about regarding my child’s education? (Grades, curriculum, special education laws, social, my child’s legal rights)

  • —Who can I speak to within the school setting to clarify?


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