Engaging Parents with Disabilities and Learning Differences

Community Partnerships

Developing strong community partnerships is essential to family engagement and overall family well-being. When strong, collaborative relationships are developed with community organizations, families can benefit from additional services and resources in areas such as health, mental health, education, housing, finance, and workforce development (45 CFR §1302.53). It is important to recognize when outside referrals benefit parents since community-based organizations offer specialized programs and services to people regarding their specific disabilities or learning differences. Engaging Community Partners to Strengthen Family Services is one such resource series that provides a variety of resources that can guide this process.

“My EHS program is always super supportive. Whenever I have needs and I don’t know what to do, they are always helpful. They connected us to therapy — mental health, grief therapy, and counseling that my kids needed when their dad died.” – Early Head Start parent

Parents with disabilities and learning differences benefit from similar services and resources that other parents do. However, services and resources may need to be adapted to address their disability or learning difference. Parents also may benefit from services and resources designed specifically to address their disability or learning difference. This includes information, materials, and support for engaging in advocacy.

A group collaborating on ideas.The National Council on Disability, explains that all families are interdependent and may rely on help from friends, families, and the community. Parents with disabilities and learning differences need similar supports and may need to go outside their existing networks to receive them. For example:

Identifying Organizations That Support and Advocate for Parents with Disabilities and Learning Differences

Your existing network of organizations, staff, and families may help you identify other potential local partners and affiliates. Involve parents and staff with disabilities or learning differences as you identify and develop community partnerships.

Many organizations that support and advocate for adults with disabilities and learning differences promote an independent living philosophy. According to the Administration for Community Living (ACL), independent living programs “promote a philosophy of independent living — including a philosophy of consumer control, peer support, self-help, self-determination, equal access, and individual and system advocacy — in order to maximize the leadership, empowerment, independence, and productivity of individuals with disabilities, and the integration and full inclusion of individuals with disabilities into the mainstream of American society.”

The resources below can help you identify local organizations that specialize in supporting disabled adults and adults with learning differences.

Developing Community Partnerships

Once a potential partnership has been identified, use Tools for Planning Community Partnerships as a resource to develop a mutually engaged community partnership. This planning tool provides a six-step process for effective action. As you go through this process:

  • Identify ways the partnership can support parents with disabilities and learning differences.
  • Explore the ways people with disabilities and learning differences participate in the leadership, development, and delivery of program services for an organization.
  • Consider what accommodations, if any, are needed to ensure building spaces, materials, communication methods, and information shared are fully accessible to all families.