Forming a Mutually Respectful University-Community Partnership through a “Family as Faculty” Project


  • Cristina Santamaria-Graff
  • Joel Boehner



University-community partnerships, Family as faculty, Collaboration, community-engagement, Special education, Disabilities, Family engagement, Reciprocity


In this paper, we, a university special education professor and an executive director of a parent-to-parent non-profit organization, describe our collaborative partnership built on a common understanding that parents of children with disabilities are educational leaders. We address how we work collaboratively to locate and establish families as co-educators in an undergraduate special education course on families for pre-service special education teachers. In line with the Individuals with Disabilities Education and Improvement Act (IDEIA), we understand that parents have the right to make educational decisions regarding their child with a disability [Section 300.300(a)(2)(iii)]. Through a “Family as Faculty” (FAF) approach, families’ voices and expertise are positioned centrally in special education teacher preparation university courses. In this paper, we detail the ways in which we have worked together to construct a solid foundation for the first and subsequent FAF projects. We highlight the ways in which our partnership began through establishing trust, respect, and clear, common goals. These mutually created goals, built on the premise that we were committed to sustainable efforts to support the parents and families involved in FAF projects, are fundamental in ensuring that all stakeholders involved receive long-term support.






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