Working with families of students with disabilities in primary schools

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Internationally, jurisdictions are enacting legislation and comprehensive procedures that recognise the right of all students, irrespective of their abilities, to receive an education at their local school. As well as recognising this right, schools are increasingly being held accountable for making appropriate adjustments and accommodations that facilitate learning for students with disabilities. Despite this, surveys of parental attitudes consistently find significant concerns with the implementation of inclusive practices in primary schools. The need for educators to work collaboratively with parents and families with children with disabilities has repeatedly been stressed in the early intervention and effective schools literature. Well documented advantages of closer school-family relationships include smoother transitions into school, higher levels of academic achievement, improved acquisition of reading, higher motivation for learning, and fewer school-based behavioural problems. Importantly, there is evidence that the effects of parental involvement in schools may also be stronger during the primary, rather than the secondary school years. Long standing research has highlighted that teachers believe that building parental and family engagement with schools should be a priority and that professional development to support teachers to work collaboratively with families is required. In this chapter, international findings from quantitative surveys of parents’ perceptions of inclusion will be reviewed and summarised. Although early research in the US found that parents with children with disabilities often reported less favourable attitudes towards inclusion than parents of typically developing children, more recent findings indicate strong support for inclusion across various parental groups in widespread jurisdictions. Parental support for inclusion has been found to be influenced by the prevailing social norms, and it is likely to be enhanced when key education professionals promote inclusion as a school norm. In addition, findings from qualitative research will be reviewed which suggests that even in jurisdictions which have been at the forefront of developing inclusive education practices, parents often report feeling disempowered. Too often parents continue to report that inadequate school supports, the use of gatekeeping, and other restrictive practices prevent students with disabilities from accessing the full range of curriculum options that are available to their peers. It is argued that the use of seven collaboration principles and best-practice individual plans (IPs) can be effective to ensure families are respected partners in the education of children with disabilities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResearch for inclusive quality education
Subtitle of host publicationLeveraging belonging, inclusion, and equity
EditorsChristopher Boyle, Kelly-Ann Allen
Place of PublicationSingapore
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9789811659089
ISBN (Print)9789811659072
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Publication series

Name Sustainable Development Goals Series
ISSN (Print)2523-3084
ISSN (Electronic)2523-3092


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