One of the most effective means of ensuring academic success is to engage families in their children’s education. While family engagement confers benefits on all students, those with disabilities often require a greater degree of parental involvement and advocacy than their peers without disabilities in order to be assured of receiving the same level of instruction as the general student population. Children with disabilities often face multifaceted classroom challenges requiring special attention from instructors and active engagement from their families. Their families play a number of supporting roles, including as their advocates and as people who can provide valuable insight into their specific needs to instructors, who may at times feel pressed by trying to meet the needs of diverse groups of students. There are rarely any simple answers to balancing the needs of each individual child with disabilities with others’ needs, with competing structural, bureaucratic, pedagogical, and emotional factors often adding extra layers of effort and complexity for everyone involved. But when families and educators work together as partners, it enhances the likelihood that children with disabilities will have positive and successful learning experiences.
The U.S. Department of Education has categorized a wide range of special education needs, in part, for the purpose of determining the scope of classroom instruction and funding requirements necessary to ensure academic achievement for all children with disabilities. But these classifications don’t adequately capture the complex nature of special needs represented in schools, which vary in each classroom depending on each student’s unique circumstance.