SUPAC Tools & Tips: Engaging Families in Successful Planning and Participation

SUPAC Tools & Tips: Engaging Families in Successful Planning and Participation
SUPAC Tools & Tips: Engaging Families in Successful Planning and Participation

SUPAC Tools & Tips are designed to provide parents and caregivers with advice on special education topics and promote parent involvement. If you have a topic you would like to see covered in our newsletter or would like to receive an electronic or hard copy please contact us by email or phone 315-443-4336 or toll free at 877-824-9555.

This issue of SUPAC Tools & Tips provides strategies and ideas for schools and agencies to make programs, services, and spaces more engaging and family-friendly. These resources will also help you plan ways to build positive and effective relationships with families.


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.


circle of papercut people

Sharing how we have helped people and what they learned from us:

  • I enjoyed talking with you. I hope that I did not take up too much of your time but please know I really appreciate it and the information you sent.  It truly did help clarify some issues for me and make me better informed as I try to plan for my son.  Your agency seems like a tremendous resource for parents looking for information! You and your coworkers have been wonderful to talk to and have helped me a ton regarding my son’s IEP.
  • Today I learned ways to communicate, terminology, and what resources are available.
  • Thank you so very much for providing me with this important information about special education. You have been extremely helpful & I really appreciate your help!
  • I am always inspired after attending a SUPAC training.
  • SUPAC has provided me with great information to help me advocate for my son and I am pleased that there continues to be efforts to educate us parents.  I recently attended a Transitional training which was a great source of knowledge.
  • Your meeting last night was wonderful, you did a GREAT job presenting all of the IEP information.  I still have so much to learn when it comes to advocating for my son but I feel as though I’m off to a good start.
  • There is a group (SUPAC) that can answer our questions and advise us.
  • I would like to tell you again, as I said it on my evaluation, that the conference was one of the best conferences that I have gone to in a very long time. It was very informative and I am ready to go back and use the information today. Thank you very much.
  • It helped me to prepare myself for the CSE meetings.
  • Thanks so much SUPAC for coming here, for your time, your expertise and for being such a wonderful resource for the parents and all of us!
  • Always, Thank You for being such a tremendous resource for our parents and their children and for being kind & helpful to our group.
  • We truly appreciate the resource you are.  So many of our parents have become so much more “advocate savvy” on behalf of their children because of you.
  • Thank you for your information today! It helped a lot and I don’t think I would have been able to keep my cool today if it wasn’t for your techniques!
  • I have a whole new thinking about advocacy.  The course has increased my confidence in speaking out for my child’s needs.
  • Thank you for everything.  Your words and encouragement inspire me as well as educate me in advocating for our guy.  I’ll keep you posted.
  • It was good to be able to feel like I’m not alone in the fight for my kid’s education.
  • I learned a lot, I’m new to all this education system. I feel better able to talk to the school special education teacher/director about my son.
  • You met our expectations wonderfully. A great amount of information and exercises that helped us truly understand our options.
  • Interesting discussion- some good ideas for working at home with son.
  • Learned the steps toward resolution & that I have more power in CSE meetings than I thought.
  • Loved the list of websites for more information. I am always looking to learn more. This met my expectations! Great presentation.
  • Very impressed with the amount of help which is available.
  • The binder is FANTASTIC. Questions were answered thoroughly & respectfully.
  • Expectations were definitely met. I gained understanding of what my district must do to help my son for his future, and what I need to do to help them do this.
  • Lots of information about resources and what to be looking for on IEPs.
  • I learned so much in this training. Especially about at the age of 15 that they must have transition planning in the IEP. Excellent.
  • Exceeded Expectations. Very thorough, and I now feel much more prepared for my son’s IEP meeting.
  • I’ve learned more what to expect and how to react more positively toward and about teachers and school. My expectations were met very well.
  • I learned to take things step by step and to celebrate our successes.
  • Skills to open lines of communication and have a reciprocal relationship with school.
  • Expectations were more than met, gained a lot of info on what is to be expected during meetings.
  • It helped to organize my thoughts and prepare me better for the process of communication with others/schools.
  • I learned about resources, terminology on school educational resources for children, IEP, 504, educational resources for disabilities.
  • Helped with understanding of parent’s/student’s rights.
  • The different ways to work with school well.
  • I learned new things to do to communicate with my kid’s teachers, things to tell them so they can know my kids better and things we can do in the future in different grade levels.
  • Instruction on my rights, laws, and purpose of the IEP & other programs.
  • I learned a lot more about the IEP and feel much more confident about discussing the IEP with the school.
  • I learned of a lot of resources I can reference.
  • I learned that there are more resources to help than I thought and how to request an IEP and how to effectively communicate.
  • Learned a lot about special education.
  • Learning more about the Acronyms and what they mean.
  • I didn’t realize how time consuming development of an IEP can be & all steps involved.
  • I learned more knowledge how transition should be. I learned that the children are the main component above all else. This met my expectations well.
  • Excellent presentation. Lots of useful information and handouts.
  • Above & beyond expectations-  I feel much more informed & aware than before I came in.
  • Met & Beyond. Learned a lot about terminology, people involved.
  • Excellent! I feel like I understand a great deal now.
  • It was presented in such a clear, concise nature the color coding was so helpful the examples were very useful also.
  • I learned how to become very organized and more confident with my daughters special education information.
  • Knowledge how to approach my child’s school to get and receive services that my child is entitled to.
  • There was a lot of great information presented. Things I would not have thought that I needed.
  • Terrific resources! Wonderful, knowledgeable, passionate presenters! Met all expectations for this training. Looking forward to more topics/presentations.
  • Strategies for effective communication in a setting in which I am often uncomfortable.
  • I appreciated the advocacy approach presented, very collaborative and positive. Assume positive intentions.
  • Better ways to fine tune my involvement in my child’s education.
  • I learned what the expectations of schools are when it comes to helping with transition planning and what to look for on IEP. I learned questions to ask of teachers and schools to see if transition planning is occurring.
  • Exceeded expectations! Nearly everything that was discussed is relatively new to me. It was fluid and easy to understand.
  • I love the binder! It has great info & forms that I can share right away.
  • Learned essential tools to provide services that allow individuals to be more self-advocating.
  • We have a better understanding of educational terminology and what resources are available to children.
  • The biggest thing that I learned was the importance of communication and good methods to do so.
  • Importance of involvement, organization and appropriate advocacy!
  • It is great to know that I am not alone.

Sample Letters

Effective communication is important. Here you will find examples of letters that cover a variety of circumstances. These letters are meant to help parents and families express what their child needs to achieve educational success. All letters are in Microsoft Word.

SUPAC welcomes the distribution of all of its materials. If you do use SUPAC materials, please cite SUPAC as the source and please notify us which material you have distributed and the number of copies. This information is very important for SUPAC to receive continued funding.

Involving Your Child in the IEP Process (PDF Format)

Involving Your Child in the IEP

This handout provides many ways to involve your child in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process.

English | Spanish | Arabic | Burmese | Chinese | Croatian | Karen | Nepali | Serbo-Croatian | Somali

SUPAC Tools & Tips: Celebrating Teachers

SUPAC Tools & Tips: Celebrating Teachers
SUPAC Tools & Tips: Celebrating Teachers

SUPAC Tools & Tips are designed to provide parents and caregivers with advice on special education topics and promote parent involvement. If you have a topic you would like to see covered in our newsletter or would like to receive an electronic or hard copy please contact us by email or phone 315-443-4336 or toll free at 877-824-9555.

This issue offers some great ideas, both big and small, to show our gratitude to the people who teach our children.


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.

New York State Special Education Classifications (PDF Format)

New York State Special Education Classifications
New York State Special Education Classifications

This handout shares NYS special education classifications as defined in Part 200 of NYSED regulations.

English | Spanish | Arabic | Burmese | Karen | Nepali

What Works Portfolio (PDF Format)

thumbnail portfolio
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.

English | Spanish | Burmese | Chinese | Croatian | Karen | Nepali | Serbo-Croatian | Somali