Academic journal article School Community Journal

Facilitating Family Involvement and Support for Inclusive Education

Academic journal article School Community Journal

Facilitating Family Involvement and Support for Inclusive Education

Article excerpt

Abstract

The advantages to a family-centered approach to services have been emphasized in education literature for several decades. Active family involvement and support have been identified as key elements to the success of inclusive early childhood education programs. The purpose of this article is two-fold: to review literature on family involvement in inclusive early childhood programs from the perspective of developmental ecological systems theory, and to describe family-focused programs for developing embedded learning opportunities across multiple inclusive settings. In so doing, we discuss how the four components of the ecological system (the microsystem, parents and siblings; the mesosystem, peers and school; the exosystem, community connections; and the macrosystem, cultural identity) influence the education of the child.

Key words: family involvement, inclusion, ecological systems, parents, siblings, early childhood education, Asian, case, cultural diversity

Introduction

Active family involvement has long been considered to be an important factor related to better outcomes in the education of young children with and without disabilities in inclusive early childhood programs (Berger, 1995; Levy, Kim, & Olive, 2006; Pérez Carreón, Drake, & Barton, 2005). Research has shown that high levels of parental involvement correlate with improved academic performance, higher test scores, more positive attitudes toward school, higher homework completion rates, fewer placements in special education, academic perseverance, lower dropout rates, and fewer suspensions (Christenson, Hurley, Sheridan, & Fenstermacher, 1997; Hoover-Dempsey & Sandler, 1997; Pérez Carreón, et al.).

Parental involvement is important for the education of children of all ages, but it is critical for the success of young children in inclusive settings (Filler & Xu, 2006). Although there has not been a standard definition of the term inclusion, inclusive early childhood programming typically reflects three characteristics: (1) full participation of children with disabilities in everyday life activities with their typically developing peers in both school and community settings; (2) educational goals and objectives are developed and implemented through team collaboration by parents and professionals; and (3) child outcomes are measured periodically to ensure the effectiveness of the program (Guralnick, 2001; Hunt, Soto, Maier, Liboiron, & Bae, 2004; Odom et al., 1996; Siegel, 1996).

The recognition that family involvement benefits children does not make clear how the involvement becomes a positive force or what factors act to determine the degree of benefit. Family involvement is not a fixed event but a dynamic and ever-changing series of interactions that vary depending on the context in which they occur, the disciplines from which the collaborative team members are drawn, the resources parents bring to the interactions, and the particular needs of the child and the family. Traditionally, the education agency or school has created structures and activities intended to support involvement. However, as parents become involved, they do so with limited power to define their roles and actions (Fine, 1993). They are often expected to agree with and support the structures and dynamics already in place. Parents who agree with the school and get along with the existing model are seen as "good." Those who disagree are considered "problematic" (Lareau & Horvat, 1999).

Parent involvement is also related to teacher actions. For example, Anderson and Minke (2007) found that specific teacher invitations were significantly related to parent involvement behaviors, particularly among minority and low-income families. They suggested that when parents perceived that their participation was desired by teachers, they would often overcome obstacles to be involved in spite of a lack of resources. Brown and Medway (2007) examined the relationships among measures of school climate, teacher expectations, and instructional practices in an elementary school with a high percentage of low-income, minority children. …

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