Including Family Voice in Planning

“In preparing a presentation for the national CEC conference taking place next month, I am thinking a lot about the importance of family voice in planning for students with behavior challenges. I am remembering the countless times when including the perspectives and ideas of family members and caregivers in the process of conducting a Functional Behavior Assessment or Positive Behavior Support plan has been the contribution that most positively changed a student’s experience at school. 

As school-based teams prepare to welcome students back into school buildings, I’m curious how they are eliciting input from families. Especially for our students with significant behavior challenges, it is important to understand their present strengths and needs to be able to prepare for their return to school. Here are a few questions to consider engaging families with at this time:

  • What has worked for your child in virtual learning?
  • What are you most concerned about for your child returning to school?
  • What is your child most concerned about regarding the return to school?
  • What are you most looking forward to your child returning to school?
  • What is your child most looking forward to returning to school?
  • What do you think the school can do to best support your child to return to school?

Consider a variety of ways for families to share their input. Are they likely to respond to an online survey? Or would a virtual town hall or coffee and conversation format more effectively open the conversation? If your first approach doesn’t elicit a strong response, what will your second attempt look like?”

We hope this has offered some new ideas for how you can obtain a family voice, and consider it an asset to your planning. If you would like to discuss this or other topics related to behavior support for students transitioning back to in-person learning, contact Meghan Mulvenna at

Meghan Mulvenna has served in the fields of Special Education and Behavior Analysis for over twenty years. Meghan is most passionate about consulting with schools and families, designing Positive Behavior Support plans based on the function of behavior, training and coaching educators and support staff, teaching pro-social behavior, promoting research-based practices, and helping students to generalize learned skills in novel contexts. Meghan is currently pursuing the publication of her first book, Bridging the Gap Between Learning and Living.

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