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Trusting Family Partnerships

I have four children, each of them ordinary and extraordinary in their own unique ways.  Now they are grown adults – with families and friends and homes and jobs of their choosing.  Most people define them as successful adults and I would have to agree.  

Andrew, my youngest, taught us the importance of being a valued member of his school and his educational team. Working together, we created appropriate supports to achieve his dreams.  He attended college classes and tried many different jobs during his transition years, and thanks to good school/family collaboration and planning, Andrew now lives in his own home and loves being self-employed in his own business where he gets to make his own decisions.

Without a doubt, my children’s educational experiences contributed to their positive post-school outcomes. And, I’m certain that the engaged and trusting relationship that our family experienced with our school community helped pave their ways. I’m also sure that the presence of the Dixon family enriched the lives of our entire school community.

While it wasn’t always easy figuring out how to make sure that my older daughter was supported in school to manage her diabetes, or, year after year helping educators understand why it was important that Andrew attend general education classes in his neighborhood school, together we were able to figure it out. As a family, we trusted that the school had our children's best interests at heart and their learning was a top priority.  We were included as valued team members to assist in problem solving unique challenges that, for some, may have seemed insurmountable.

For example, how could my friendly, smart, handsome son Andrew participate in the 4th grade school play when he was not able to talk and his body did not allow him to easily follow directions?  When the educators couldn’t come up with a solution, they contacted me for ideas. I suggested the teachers ask the “experts” – his classmates.  The kids were full of ideas.  As a result, three clear and valued roles were identified and Andrew was onstage for the whole musical!

Because the school team and I trusted each other, we were able to work together. They made me feel welcome in contributing to decisions that ensured school district policies and practices supported the philosophy that everyone belongs, and that all students have the right to attend their neighborhood school with the supports necessary to achieve success – success for the students, the educators, and the entire school community.  

I am sharing my story as a way to introduce the latest SWIFT Issue Brief on the topic of polices that support trusting family partnerships.  This useful Brief provides guidance to achieving what we know through research and direct experience to be true.  Family engagement is a strong predictor of positive student outcomes in the near-term and provides long-term benefits to students, families, educational systems, and communities.

- Beth Dixon

Beth, a parent of four children and grandparent of four, is interested in equality for all people in all areas that affect our lives--education, social/friendship ties, work environments, housing options, recreation opportunities, and more. Beth enjoys organizing and presenting best practices to participants at the NH Leadership Series. Watching people change and broaden their expectations for themselves and/or their children is exciting to her--but even more exciting is watching them become involved in their communities and in public life. Beth Dixon was honored in May 2011 with the Presidential Award of Excellence, an award given annually to five staff members who have demonstrated excellence through outstanding performance in their positions and a record of dedication to, and a concern for, the University community. Throughout the past 20 plus years of Beth’s tenure at the IOD, she has been responsible for growing a cornerstone program of the organization, the NH Leadership Series. As a result of Beth’s leadership and organizational talents, over 800 individuals with disabilities, their families, and graduate students have been trained in evidence-based practices to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities, their families, and their communities.