Parents and their child meeting with a teacher

Helping with homework. Attending parent-teacher conferences. Serving as a room parent. These are common ways that parents and families become involved with their child’s school. However, there are many different ways for parents and families to be involved in their child’s education. Parents who have been there and have experience can offer guidance for other parents on how to better work with schools. SUPAC seeks to empower parents and families to work with their child’s school. This new SUPAC blog series shares advice from parents for parents to help you find ways to be involved, as well as ways to support your child’s education.

WORKING WITH YOUR CHILD’S SCHOOL: “We are the first and most important people to advocate for our child.”

Young father with two children

Parents and families are always involved in their child’s lives, even if it is in ways others cannot see, understand, or value (Ginsberg, 2012). Parents almost always want to be involved in their child’s education and have been agents of change for decades. In fact, “Parents played the primary role in bringing about litigation and legislation establishing the right to a free and appropriate public education for all children with disabilities” (Heward, 2010).

Parents know their children best and parents should be acknowledged as an expert on their children. Parents and families can offer essential and practical knowledge that can increase student success, but—as some have found out—they remain untapped resources (Moll, Amanti, Neff, & Gonzalez, 1992, cited in Evans, 2018).

One way to be involved in your child’s education in a meaningful way is engaging with learning at home. Rather than waiting to be invited into the school in the usual way (i.e., invitation to a Committee on Special Education or CSE meeting, or receiving a letter or phone call), work with your school to employ strategies at home or explain how dynamics at home can lead to successfully impacting student achievement and learning.

Another way to be involved and engaged is to examine emergent and critical issues concerning special education and ”to honor (your) own life experiences and empower (your)selves and other parents and families as critical collaborators” (Olivos, 2007, cited in Evans, 2018).

Remember, parents have been working with schools for a long time, and parents of children in special education have been advocating for years. They worked hard to provide their children with a good education. This work lead to the first federal law on special education, the Education of All Handicapped Children Act. This law has been updated and made stronger. Each time this law has changed, it has been done to help parents improve education for their children. The most updated version of this law is IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

But IDEA is just one law helping parents and students. Another law, ESEA, which stands for “The Elementary and Secondary Education Act,” was one of the first laws to give specific details on how to support parents. This law gives a legal definition of parents’ rights in education, and it shares what help is available. Sometimes these laws are updated to try and make them better. The most recent version of this law is ESSA, or “The Every Student Succeeds Act.”

These laws all created resources to help parent work with schools. For example, SUPAC is one of these resources. SUPAC receives funds from the New York State Education Department, or NYSED, to do its work. Stay tuned to learn more from SUPAC and from other parents of children with disabilities.


Evans, M. P. (2018). Chapter 3: The Challenge of Family Engagement Policy Implementation: A Case Study of Title I School-Family Compacts. In Y. Guo (Ed.), Home-School Relations in the USA (pp. 37-54). Singapore: Springer.

Ginsberg, M. B. (2012, February/March). Invaluable allies: Partnering with parents for student success. Educational Horizons, 90(3), 16-22.

Heward, W. L. (2010). Support for family involvement. [Website]. Retrieved May 29, 2018 from:

Moll, L., Amanti, C., Neff, D., & Gonzalez, N. (1992). Funds of knowledge for teaching: Using a qualitative approach to connect homes and classrooms. Theory Into Practice, 31, 132–141.

Olivos, E. M. (2007). The power of parents: A critical perspective of bicultural parent involvement in schools. New York, NY: Peter Lang.

SUPAC seeks to empower parents and families to work with their child’s school. This is one post in a new SUPAC blog series sharing advice from parents for parents to help you find ways to be involved, as well as ways to support your child’s education.

Advocacy Resources

  • The Advocacy Institute – dedicated to improving the lives of children, youth, and adults with disabilities.
  • New York Self-Determination Coalition – The Coalition is an ad hoc group of parents and professionals dedicated to promoting self-determination as an option for persons with developmental disabilities who require support through the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. The Coalition works to promote positive system change to bring about public policy reform, financial integrity, and ultimately, increased satisfaction for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities. NYSELFD members also mentor parents who have questions about self-directed services.
  • Special Education in Plain Language – This publication provides information to parents, advocates, and school districts about the laws and regulations that define special education programs and services.
  • Wrights Law Special Education Law and Advocacy – Wrightslaw is the leading website about special education law and advocacy with thousands of articles, cases, and free resources about hundreds of special education topics, books by Peter Wright and Pamela Wright, and special education law and advocacy training.
  • YOUTH POWER! – YOUTH POWER! is a New York State network run for and by youth and young adults. We work to ensure young people have meaningful involvement on all levels of the services they receive. We ensure the availability of Peer Support through persistent advocacy, technical assistance and by offering training and education opportunities.

What Works Portfolio (PDF Format)

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What Works Portfolio

The “What Works Portfolio” is a collection of strategies and ideas to share with your child’s Committee on Special Education (CSE) team at the Annual Review meeting; a tool for sharing strategies with the new team as your child enters a new grade with a new teacher; and problem solving when challenges arise.

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