Parent Partnership Focus Groups

In this section of the Parent Partnership Module, you will learn from the results of two parent focus groups with parents of students with disabilities who were willing to share how partnering with schools and their children’s teachers helped their children succeed in the general education classroom.

Parents of children with disabilities who had experienced success in a general education classroom were invited to participate in a parent focus group. Two separate focus groups were conducted in two different Texas communities, one urban and one more rural. The parent participants were identified through a lead parent who coordinated the panels and accessed her personal network of parents in each of these communities.

Who Were the Parent Participants?

Parents were asked if they believed their child with disabilities had achieved success in their general education placements. If the parent felt their child had succeeded in one or more general education placements, they were invited to participate in one of the parent focus groups. The focus groups were held in easily accessible community locations. A large church in one community and a Regional Education Service Center in another community hosted these focus groups.

Seventeen parents participated in the focus groups. The eighteen children represented by this parent group were mostly male. The parents participating in the focus groups were primarily female, ages ranging from 32 to 51 years. Fifteen of the parent participants were married, one was widowed, and one divorced. Eleven of the families had children with disabilities, as well as siblings, living at home. Nine of the seventeen parents attended some type of support group, and eleven parents belonged to an organization related to their child’s disability.

Process for the Focus Groups

The format of the focus group was explained to the participants and flip charts were used to display the facilitator generated areas of common challenges for students with disabilities. Key words (below) were displayed on the charts to jog the memories of the participants. These key words became the topics of Parent Concerns. The additional Descriptions of Parent Concerns evolved from the parent discussions.

Key Words Descriptions of Parent Concerns
Academics struggling with the assigned curriculum, stressing over high stakes tests
Attendance unnecessary tardiness/absence
Behavior not following classroom/school rules
Emotional overly happy, overly sad, inappropriately flat in response
Maturity cognitive ability lower than physical appearance
Other Students bullying or being excluded
Physical pain, difference, toileting
Safety low “stranger danger” awareness
Social not following social conventions, unable to form/maintain relationships
Verbal Skills non-verbal or poor articulation

The following question was posed, eliciting a response from each parent participant: “As you have had your children with disabilities in general education classes, what problems have you overcome so that your child can progress with their education and how was the problem solved?”

Each parent took a turn describing a challenge their child overcame in a general education classroom. Next, the parent provided a detailed description of ways they worked with the teacher to reach a solution. The Problem and Solution Summary Chart will follow.


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