Engaging Parents of Students with Disabilities: Moving Beyond the Grief Model

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Educators in many Western nations have used the Kübler-Ross stage model of grief for five decades as a lens to explain parental response to disability. A recent article in Improving Schools, representing this deficit model, asserted that the grief lens is useful in understanding parent’s response to learning that their child qualified for special education services. Implicit assumptions in such a perspective unintentionally undermine parent–educator relations. This article describes that phenomenon and notes an emerging ‘transformational’, empowering model of parental response to disability based on a social-ecological conceptualization of disability. Educators’ intent on improving 21st century schools must confront belief perseverance regarding the grief lens and adopt a more empowering strength-based approach in order to effectively engage parents of students with disabilities in strong collaboration relationships.