Family planning study gives ‘feeling of empowerment’ to families with children who have disabilities


Many education classes take place in Roemer Hall.
Photo by Megan Courtney


Students are conducting a research study research focused on changing the way families are counseled. 

In Education Professor Rebecca Panagos’ research study with Missouri First Steps, the students who are helping conduct the research are using a tool that makes families “empowered,” said Panagos.

The tool, called a Family Facilitated Planning Worksheet, is a chart that has three sections: Support Reflections, things that they want to keep close to them, such as parents, best friends, neighbors and babysitters; Supports, such as people who live in the home, friends, supporters such as their job, and community supports such as doctors; and lastly, Stress Reflections, which are things that the family worries about such as medical bills and other finances. It is up to the families to determine what things go in which categories.

“We would be sitting down with the families and they would be writing the information in the tool,” Panagos said. “It’s an empowerment tool for them.”

Panagos said that this is the first time that the family is filling one of the charts out themselves. She said usually a social worker is asking the questions and writing things down, but not with the Family Facilitated Planning Tool.

“It’s a decision-making tool, but they make their own changes. If they get a new job and have job security, they can change it and add it to the support reflections side. They make their own changes and keep it updated.”

Panagos said that the families can pull the tool out when a new therapist comes into the home and explain that it is their lives, and that the families can do all the talking, rather than a case manager or a social worker.

“They don’t have to depend on anyone else; they can do it [fill out] the tool themselves,” Panagos said. “It makes them feel less a victim.”

The Family Facilitated Planning Worksheet is a tool that gives families who have children with disabilities a feeling of “empowerment,” according to Panagos.
Photo by Megan Courtney