Family Engagement

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).

South Carolina

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.

For more information on what your state is doing to serve students and young adults with disabilities, please visit our state pages.

General Resources

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 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.

Alternate View

COVID-19 Considerations for Special Educators
COVID-19 Questions Revised
Alabama Family Central: Family Services

Special Education Guidance for COVID-19: SY 2020—2021 School Reentry
Arizona Department of Education: Virtual Resource Hub
Distance Learning & Special Education

Instructional Resources for Students with Disabilities

Learning Supports for Students with Disabilities
Providing Secondary Transition Services During COVID-19
Parent/Family Frequently Asked Questions

Continued Educational Opportunities and Special Education During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Special Education Guidance and Resources for COVID-19
Resources for Families
Special Education Guidance for Parents Related to School Reopening
Special Education COVID-19 Resources for Educators
Special Education COVID-19 Resources for Families

Mitigation Strategies: Working with Students with Special Needs

District of Columbia
Serving Students with Disabilities during Periods of Remote or Blended Learning
Reopen Strong: Specialized Education Services

COVID-19 – Mental Health
Resources for Tier II and Tier III Instruction during COVID-19

Guidance on Restart and Implementation for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
Resiliency & Wellness: Resources for Students, Parents, and Educators during COVID-19
Resources for Distance/Remote Learning
Georgia Academy for the Blind Reopening Plan

Special Education Resources
Do’s & Don’ts when Providing Educational Services to Students with Disabilities during COVID-19 School Closures

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.

Office of Special Education COVID-19 Resources & Information
Contingency Planning Considerations for Students with Disabilities in the Current COVID-19 Environment
Family Engagement Toolkit

Return-to-Learn Special Education
Learners with Special Needs Resources to Support Learning During COVID-19

Navigating Change Resources
Navigating Next

Q&A for Parents of Children with Disabilities
COVID-19 Resources for Special Education and Early Learning

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

Continuity of Learning – Parent Resources

Maryland Together: Maryland’s Recovery Plan for Education
Resources for Educators and Families
Parent Resources

Letter for Families of Students with Disabilities
Family Resource Toolbox for Families with Children with Disabilities
COVID-19 Information and Resources for Special Educators
Initial Fall School Reopening Guidance
Comprehensive Special Education Guidance for the 2020-21 School Year

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
MDE COVID-19 Family Engagement Resources

Parent Guidance
COVID-19 Resources for Families of Students with Disabilities
Special Education COVID-19 Resources
Fall Guidance 2020-21: Special Education Due Process
Supporting Students and Families COVID-19 Resources
2020-21 Planning Guidance for Minnesota Public Schools

Transition Works
Q&A Nebraska Office of Special Education
Letter to Families and Parents of Students with Disabilities

New Hampshire
Guidance Document Archive
Special Education Guidance from Rebecca Fredette
Supporting Child and Family Wellbeing during the COVID-19 Emergency

New Jersey
Virtual Learning Toolkit: Resources for Families and Schools
Parent & Family Engagement

New Mexico
Family Engagement Guidance for Remote and Hybrid Learning
Know Your Rights
Winter Wellness Family Resource Packet

New York
Recovering, Rebuilding, and Renewing: The Spirit of New York’s Schools Reopening Guide

North Carolina
North Carolina Remote Learning Parent and Caretaker Resources
COVID-19 Parent & Family FAQs

North Dakota
COVID-19 Special Education
Resource Center

Family Engagement: Reset and Restart
Additional Considerations for Special Education
Remote Learning for Students with Disabilities Who Have Complex Needs
Resources for Parents and Families
Resource Guide for Families and Caregivers

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
Parent Engagement: Distance Learning for Students with Disabilities
Parent Tips for Virtual IEP Meetings
Joint Statement on Serving Students with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Outbreak
FAQ: Providing a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) Through a Distance Learning Platform During a Closure to Normal School Operations due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

COVID-19 Resources for Special Education
COVID-19 Resources for Special Education
Guidance for Special Education Evaluation During COVID-19
Oregon’s Extended SchoolClosure Guidance
Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education
Preparing for and Responding to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
as a Parent or Family of a Child who Experiences Disability
Navigating the 2020-2021 School Year: ODDS Guidance for Case Management Entities and Families

Staff and Student Wellness Guide
Students With IEPs and the 2020-21 School Year
Family Engagement
Answers to FAQs Regarding the COVID-19 Pandemic

Rhode Island
COVID-19 Special Education Resources Webpage
RIDE COVID Resources

South Carolina
Navigating COVID #1
Tips for Parents and Families During School Closures

Special Education and COVID-19

Parent Resources for Students in Special Education
COVID-19 Support: Special Education

Supporting Learning While Social Distancing: Companion Document for Families of Children with Disabilities

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
COVID-19 Webpage
Returning to School: Planning Equity Audit

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
Feedback on Special Education Guidance for Reopening Washington Schools 2020

West Virginia
West Virginia Remote Learning Framework for the COVID-19 Emergency
Special Education & Student Support Resources for Families & Educators

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
Supplemental Resources for Supporting Students with IEPs During COVID-19