Domain 3: Family Involvement

Family involvement in the IEP and Transition Planning Process is critical to a student's success.  Families (including parents and extended family members) are experts on their children and have invaluable information on their strengths, preferences, needs and interests.  Families are also the student's best advocates in school and the community. It is important for schools to learn about the families in their community, their perspectives on employment, and their values and beliefs.  Bluestein (2016) conducted a study and found the majority of parents with students who are intellectual or developmentally disabled, valued part-time or full-time employment in the community that makes their child happy.  They were not as concerned about the rate of pay for their child as much as they were worried about their child finding a job, getting hired, having on-the-job support, and appropriate social and communication skills.  Keel & Awsumb (2018) found that Latino parents expected their children to pursue post-secondary education.  Both of these studies also discuss how the family views differ from what teachers presented at the school during IEP meetings.  Teachers often were focused on what was realistic for the students in their opinion, rather than considering the goals and values of the student and their families. Unfortunately, it is common for schools and families to have a disconnect in the area of transitions when regular ongoing communication, relationship-building, and problem solving is not occuring from early on in school. 
According to Kim & Morningstar (2005), families indicate minimal involvement in the transition process.  Barriers to family involvement included insensitivity from the school, lack of accommodations, contextual barriers, and an apparent lack of importance placed on family values and beliefs.  Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CLD) families were found to offer few suggestions in IEP meetings and did not feel part of the process.  Cavendish (2017) recommends that teachers make it a priority to build relationships with the student and their family prior to holding IEP meetings in order to make families feel more like partners in the process rather than passive participants.  Cavendish presents a model where families and the school collaborate to create IEP goals, regularly communicate about progress and the stages of transitions, and create a balance of input from the student, family, and teachers. Kim & Morningstar (2005) also discuss how schools need to empower families through providing knowledge about transitions topics, encouraging family involvement in all aspects of the school, providing parent support programs, and increasing access to social support programs in the community. Empowering families is the key to helping families become more involved and feel more valued in the IEP and Transition Planning Process.



These artifacts are a collection of coursework completed in SPED 856, 858, 859, 861 and 756 as well as resources that I have used within my district.  These artifacts are aligned to the following transitions competencies:


3.1 Understand and consider the impact of transition on the family

Community Resource Directory

Supports 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 3.5, 3.6, 3.8, 3.9, 3.11, 3.12

I developed this Community Resource Directory for Transitions, focusing on Kansas City, MO region, in SPED 859, to provide information on transitions, community agencies, and post-school options to students and their families.  This resource directory provides the following to better involve students and families in the process:

  • an overview of Transitions to demonstrate the values and beliefs driving the process

  • strategies for planning for adulthood

  • a timeline of transitions activities

  • a community resource directory with descriptions of services agencies provide separated by transitions domains

  • a community resource matrix showcasing which agencies help with what domain. 

This website is a great resource for families (and staff members) when a student or the family is in need of a particular resource.  Since this is web-based information, families who need the website in a different language can still access all of the information with tools like the Google Translate Chrome Extension (needs to be installed).  This resource has been an effective way to empower families with the knowledge and resources they need to become more involved in the transitions planning process.

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IRIS Center-Family Collaboration Activity

For SPED 856, I completed the IRIS Center module on collaborating with families.  The module demonstrates how to address diverse families of students with disabilities.  After completing the module, I answered questions related to family factors, emotions, and roles as well as how I should act given a case scenario. This activity helped me to understand the impact of transitions on families, identify family needs, understand different family values and beliefs, and using problem solving to develop relationships with families. [Supports 3.1, 3.4, 3.7. 3.10]

Informal Assessments-Parent Interview Expanded Form

It is essential to the transition planning process to gather family input about the student.  This parent interview form helps to identify family needs and values, specific roles to support transitions, develop relationships and facilitate involvement in the process. [Supports 3.1-3.4, 3.7] The completed form was conducted by phone for Running Project Part 2 in SPED 858 as part of the student's assessment plan.

Translated Family Documents

At my district, it is expected that communication to families is bilingual.  The Family Liaison helps to make phone conference calls to Spanish speaking partners and acts as our interpreter.  She also acts as an advocate for parents and ensures our practices are culturally responsive to the families' values, beliefs, and needs.  She also helps to translate written information sent home to parents.  Please see some examples of parent letters regarding transitions topics (Transfer of Rights, Outside Agency Communication) that have been translated for families.  [Supports 3.2, 3.5, 3.6].

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Transition Resource Fair

This year, for the first time, we partnered with Kansas City Public Schools for the Transitions Resource Fair.  This was a great way to provide parents the opportunity to connect with community agencies, learn about post-school options, and provide training on transitions topics through small group sessions. [Supports 3.8, 3.9, 3.12] Using the model of KCPS we are going to host another Transitions Resource Fair night in the Spring for the local Charter Schools, so that more parents have the opportunity to access this information.

Discussion Post

This discussion post is from SPED 856 and answers the prompt: "How does your school actively provide opportunities for family involvement? What skills and knowledge do your parents need to be partners in transitions?"  Most of my families are comfortable with the IEP Process and regularly communicate concerns and offer suggestions.  My goal is to empower my families with the knowledge they need to be better advocates for their students in the community and post-school. [Supports 3.5, 3.7, 3.10, 3.11]

Will I still have my IEP in college? Information Brochure

This is the number one question I get asked at 11th and 12th grade IEP meetings from families.  This brochure provides students and families information about their accommodations and supports in post-secondary education and training.  [Supports 3.8, 3.9].  The information in this document, created for SPED 861, was collected from interviews with Disability Support Services staff at a local community college and at a local 4-year university.



Bluestein, C.L., Carter, E.W., McMilan, E.D. (2016). The voices of parents: Post–high school expectations, priorities, and                   concerns for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Journal of Special Education, 50(3), 164-177
Cavendish, Wendy, Connor, J., David, & Rediker, Eva. (2017). Engaging Students and Parents in Transition-Focused                         Individualized Education Programs. Intervention in School and Clinic, 52(4), 228-235.
Greene, G., & Nefsky, P. (1999). Transition for culturally and linguistically diverse youth with disabilities: Closing the gaps.               Multiple Voices, 3(1), 15—24
Guadalupe Centers Charter School District. (2018). Transfer of Rights Notification Letter Bilingual Version. [PDF File].
Guadalupe Centers Charter School District. (2019). Vocational Rehabilitation Summer Work Experience Parent Letter                     Bilingual Version. [PDF File].
Keel, J. M., Cushing, L. S., & Awsumb, J. M. (2018). Post-School Visions and Expectations of Latino Students With Learning            Disabilities, Their Parents, and Teachers. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, 41(2), 88–98.
Kotowski, J. (2018, May 27). Module 4 Discussion, Working with Families. Transition Education and Services  SPED 856.                  University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS.
Kotowski, J.  (2018, November 28). Running Project. Interagency Services for Transition to Adulthood 859. University of                    Kansas, Lawrence, KS.
Kotowski, J.  (2019, February 16). IRIS Module: Parent Participation. Special Education Leadership SPED 756. University of                 Kansas, Lawrence, KS.
Kotowski, J.  (2019, July 29). Access to Post-Secondary Education and Training. Blending Academics and Transition SPED                861. University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS.
Kotowski, J. & Guadalupe Centers Charter School District (2019). Community Resource Fair Flyer. [PDF File].
Kim, K. H., & Morningstar, M. E. (2005). Transition planning involving culturally and linguistically diverse families. Career                   Development for Exceptional Individuals, 28(2), 92-103
Synatschk, K. O., Clark, G. M., & Patton, J. R. (2008). Informal Assessments for Transition Series Combo Kit. Austin, TX:                        Pro ed.


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