Family engagement and advocacy plays a key role in helping youth with disabilities transition to adulthood. Studies show that family support positively affects graduation rates, employment and post-education achievement for all youth, including those with disabilities. As states adapt to the challenges of providing quality equitable services to families remotely, the role of families has become even more important in supporting youth with disabilities as they navigate the transition into adulthood, workforce training, post-secondary education and/or employment from home.
[Note that “family” here is defined broadly as adults and children related biologically, emotionally or legally. It includes single parents, blended families, unrelated individuals living cooperatively and partnered couples who live with biological, adopted and/or foster children.]
Families can help improve the outcomes of their children’s lives when they act as mentors, leaders and advocates for their children. Families can support students’ successful transition by maintaining high expectations that they will succeed in school, and by supporting early job opportunities or work-based learning where youth develop skills for employment and life. Family members need the tools to be involved in their child’s education and transition process. Some states have developed innovative approaches for helping families engage in the distance learning and transition process during the COVID-19 pandemic, and for engaging families directly.
Providing resources for families, so they can effectively support their child’s education
The Indiana Department of Education created an omnibus resource sheet organized by disability, specific needs and type of resource. The document provides resources for parents to stay up to date on their child’s individualized education program (IEP) and resources for students to access educational materials.
Michigan provides access to the online resources from the Office of Special Education’s (OSE) grant-funded initiatives such as the Statewide Autism Resources and Training Project (START), which provides training, technical assistance and coaching support to students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
The South Carolina Department of Education collaborates with the Department of Health and Environmental Control to support the education and health of families in home settings. It developed a web page with resources for educators, families and students on assistive technology, accessibility, online education modules and work training for teens with disabilities.
Guiding schools on how to effectively coordinate and communicate with families and caregivers
Louisiana created direct service guides to assist schools in developing, implementing and modifying learning plans for families in remote environments and academic resources for families and students with disabilities. The toolboxes provide strategies and resources for families in the areas of organization, accommodation and accessibility.
Washington state provided a Supporting Inclusionary Practices During School Facility Closure document, which provides guidelines to schools for maintaining positive relationships and effective communication with families during COVID-19. The resource guides special educators in how to recognize and accommodate the individual cultural backgrounds, needs and strengths of families.
Transition of Students with Disabilities to Postsecondary Education: A Guide for High School Educators: This resource from the U.S. Department of Education provides information on the transition to postsecondary education for students with disabilities including admissions process, documentation of a disability and keys for success including attitude, self-advocacy and preparation.
A Transition Guide to Postsecondary Education and Employment for Students and Youth with Disabilities: This U.S. Department of Education guide includes information on transition planning, services and requirements, as well as options after leaving secondary school and supporting student-made decisions.
Strengths-Based IEPs: What You Need to Know: This web page from Understood.org elaborates on what strengths-based IEPs are, why they work and what their potential is when working with students with disabilities.
Continuity of Learning During COVID-19: The Department of Education’s IDEAs That Work website offers information, tools and resources to help educators, parents and families and related service providers meet the educational, behavioral and emotional needs of children and youth with disabilities through remote and virtual learning. In addition, users will find several information briefs on evidence-based and promising practices designed to support continuity of learning for students with disabilities. Viewers also have access to a searchable database containing resources and information for educators, parents and families and related service providers to support students with disabilities.
The National Resources for Advocacy, Independence, Self-determination and Employment (RAISE) Technical Assistance Center: The RAISE Center works with the seven (7) Rehabilitation Service Administration (RSA)-funded Parent Training & Information Centers to develop and disseminate information and resources that increase their capacity to serve youth and young adults with disabilities and their families.
Frequently Asked Questions for Parents of Students with Disabilities
Regarding School Year 2020-21
Remote Learning for Students with Significant Intellectual or Multiple Disabilities
Remote Learning for Students Who are Hard of Hearing, Deaf, or Deafblind
Remote Learning for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Louisiana Department of Education COVID-19
Continuous Education for Students with Disabilities
Timelines and Documentation During Extended School Closure for Students with Disabilities
Continuous Learning for Students with Disabilities Supporting Guidance Documents
Guidance to Address Return to Learn for Students with IEPs
OSE Grant Funded Initiatives Online Resources
Navigating Extended Time Away From School: Information for Families With Children Receiving Special Education Services
Tools to Teach: Helpful Tips for Parents
Engaging Families in Reopening Our Schools
Special Education and Related Services During the 2020-21 School Year
Return to Learn Oklahoma: A Framework for Reopening Schools
Staff and Student Wellness Guide
What Families of Students with Disabilities Need to Know During COVID-19 School Closure
Special Education Students After COVID-19 Key Considerations
COVID-19 Web page
School Re-Opening 2020-2021: Planning for Students with Disabilities
Professional Development Opportunities for Supporting Students with Disabilities
Special Education Planning Guide for Reopening Washington Schools 2020
Reopening Washington Schools 2020: Special Education Guidance
Questions and Answers: Provision of Services to Students with Disabilities During School Facility Closures for COVID-19
Supporting Inclusionary Practices during School Facility Closure
Summary of Reopening Washington Schools 2020: Special Education Guidance
Guidance for Families on Special Education Services During COVID-19
Preparing for Discussions on Additional Services: What Families Can Do
Understanding Special Education Guidance During the COVID-19 Pandemic
What Families Need to Know about Additional Services Due to Extended School Closure
For Families and Students Webpage