Expectations of Chinese Families of Children with Disabilities towards American Schools

Article excerpt


Working collaboratively with culturally and linguistically diverse families of children with disabilities can sometimes be a challenge for educators and service providers. As the number of Asian students with disabilities continues to increase, very little research has focused on how collaborative partnerships can be developed between schools and their families. The purpose of this study was to examine the expectations of 12 Chinese families of children with disabilities towards American schools. One-on-one interviews were used in the study. Results suggested that the participants had five expectations from American schools: (1) accessibility of quality interpreters, (2) cultural sensitivity among professionals, (3) advocacy, (4) home-school communication, and (5) parent education. Implications for applying research to practice are discussed.

Key Words: home-school partnerships, culturally, linguistically diverse families, Chinese families, family, schools, disabilities, special education students, disability, special needs, parents, communication, Asian, advocacy


Since 1975, several regulations protecting the rights of children and youth with disabilities aged 3 to 21 years old have been made and revised in the United States. These regulations include the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (P.L. 94-142), Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), IDEA Amendments of 1997 (IDEA '97), and Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA 2004). In order to ensure that these children and youth receive free and appropriate education, the regulations state clearly that parents must be members of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team, meeting annually with professionals to discuss the services and placements of students with disabilities. Numerous parental rights are stated in the regulations. For example, parents can request IEP meetings any time during the year and discuss their children's educational program; parents can request that schools conduct evaluations when disabilities are suspected to be the cause of poor academic performance; schools must provide parents with progress reports regarding their children's performance toward the IEP goals and objectives; and parents can request to have evaluation reports sent to them before IEP meetings. One purpose of these rights is to inform schools that parents' voices are important and should be included in the development of their child's educational program.

It is undeniable that the U.S population has changed rapidly in the past few decades. Between 1980 and 2006, the rate of increase for the culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) population was very high, between 41% and 269% (see Table 1; U.S. Census Bureau, 2006; U.S. Department of Commerce, 2005). This drastic change in population directly and dramatically affects the demographics of the school-age population. Currently, CLD students comprise almost half (43%) of the school-age population (National Center for Education Statistics, 2007). Among the students receiving special education in 2005-2006, 41% of them were from the diverse population (U.S. Department of Education, 2005). While the number of CLD students with and without disabilities increased rapidly, less than 20% of educators (general and special education) were from the CLD population (Strizek, Pittsonberger, Riordan, Lyter, & Orlofsky, 2006; University of Florida, 2003). The diverse student population, combined with the shortage of teachers from diverse backgrounds, is forcing schools to evaluate their ways of collaborating with CLD families.

Existing literature suggests that developing an effective home-school partnership with CLD families of children with disabilities has been a challenge (e.g., Hughes, Valle-Riestra, & Arguelles, 2002; Lian & Fontànez-Phelan, 2001; Smalley & Reyes-Blanes, 2001; Zionts, Zionts, Harrison, & Bellinger, 2003). …