1) Respect unique differences in family dynamics. Today we need to think of families broadly as those people who are important in students' lives - who may or may not be birth parents. They are adults who care for and about the daily needs of children and adolescents.
2) Become familiar with processes used to ascertain student goals and dreams (e.g., Making Action Plans, Forest, 1989; and C.O.A.C.H., Giangreco, Cloninger, & Iverson, 1993). Use these and other methods to be certain that family priorities are incorporated into the overall education plan.
3) Listen to and respect family values and priorities. Teachers, therapists, and other educators flow in and out of a student's world, but families are in their child's life forever. Seek out information from families. Respect them for the knowledge and information they can provide.
4) Support families and students in their efforts to become involved in extracurricular activities in the school and the community. Assist the family in accessing the supports necessary for students to participate in various typical activities.
5) Facilitate a communication loop between families and teachers. Stay in the loop, but do not supersede the classroom teacher's connection with families. Don't forget that informal contact can provide a strong link between home and school.
6) Model for others how the family is an integral part of the student's educational team. Make the family feel welcome, accepted, and respected. Be careful of huge IEP and/or evaluation meetings.
7) Involve families in workshops, training, seminars, and support groups, to the extent that they are interested. Provide or seek support so they can attend (offer a ride, seek tuition waivers). Remember that families are valuable presenters to faculty, school boards, and the community.
8) Connect families to one another. Provide information on existing support organizations, if they desire.
9) Connect families to typical school and community organizations (PTA, parent volunteer organization, community recreation groups). Encourage and support family members to become involved in the whole school community, to the extent that they are comfortable.
10) Make sure the classroom teacher includes families in all typical home school connections (parent-teacher conferences, classroom volunteers, field trip chaperones). While IEP and evaluation meetings are important, they should not take the place of typical parent-teacher connections.Reprinted with permission, The Collaborator, a publication of the Resource/Collaborative Teaching Masters in Education Program at the College of William and Mary, Vol. , (), Fall 1995.