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Masters of Special Education with Academic Instruction Certification

Parent Participation Involvement - Topic 6

What is it?

Parental participation is a key component of the special education services. Educators may employ a number of strategies to optimize parental participation in the development of the individualized education plan (IEP) and overcome potential barriers to collaboration (e.g., cultural differences, challenges related to language; Dabkowski, 2004). Person-centered planning (PCP; Keyes & Owens-Johnson, 2003) emphasizes a strength-based consideration of the student that results in a personalized vision of the future for the individual and plans for achieving that vision. The PCP process, though flexible and informal, typically involves the inclusion of multiple family members who assist the student in generating a personal profile, describing a desirable future, planning for the attainment of the student’s goals, and a clear plan for monitoring the implementation of the program.  PCP is an adaptive technique used in a variety of placements for children who encompass a diverse range of age groups and disabilities.


The Choosing Outcomes and Accommodations for Children (COACH; e.g., Giangreco, Cloninger, & Iverson, 2011) is an assessment and planning process designed to assist school personnel in working collaboratively with families to develop IEPs for students with high incidence disabilities. The COACH process begins with a family interview that allows families to identify the highest priority learning goals for their child. Additional learning outcomes are identified from the general educational curriculum. Finally, families are encouraged to identify supports to be provided to or for students. Throughout the COACH process, educators are encouraged to elicit opinions from family members and actively involve the family in the creation of educational supports.


Why is it important?

Educators possess both legal and theoretical reasons for involving parents in the education process. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires educators to involve parents in decisions about assessment and the IEP. IDEA further obligates schools to ensure parental participation through procedural safeguards and rights, including the right of parents to provide consent to initial evaluations for special education eligibility and placement, revoke consent for services, and pursue their right to due process in the event of disagreements with the school.  In addition, research has identified numerous benefits of parent participation in the special education assessment process and generation of the IEP (Turnbull, Turnbull, Erwin, Sodak, & Shogren, 2011). Findings suggest that students whose parents are more engaged with school show higher academic and behavioral achievement, improved attendance, and higher aspirations for postsecondary education (Ferguson, 2008).

Dabkowski, D. M. (2004). Encouraging active parent participation in IEP team meetings. Teaching

Exceptional Children, 36(3), 34-39.

Ferguson, C. (2008). The school-family connection: Looking at the larger picture. Austin, TX:

Southwest Educational Development Laboratories.

Ginagreco, M. F., Cloninger, C. J., & Iverson, V. S. (2011). Choosing outcomes and accommodations

for children (COACH): A guide to educational planning for students with disabilities (3rd

ed.).Baltimore: Brookes.

Keyes, M. W., & Owens-Johnson, L. (2003). Developing person-centered IEPs. Intervention in School

& Clinic, 38, 145-152.

Turnbull, A., Turnbull, R., Erwin, E. J., Soodak, L. C., & Shogren, K. A. (2011). Families,

professionals, and exceptionality: Positive outcomes through partnerships and trust (6th

ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.



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