California Deafblind Services

Gloria: Successful Collaboration Between Parents and Professionals

02/05/2010 15:23

I recently had the opportunity to conduct a training session for special education teachers and administrators on working collaboratively with the families of children with special needs, specifically children with multiple disabilities, including deaf-blindness. 

One of the main goals of this training session was discussing the critical importance of creating respectful alliances with families in order to better serve our students. 

For this training I invited parents to talk about their experiences from their very unique perspectives. One of these parents who came to talk to us had kept a diary about her son with special needs since he was born, and he is now twenty-years old. 

She shared the diary with me because I had been her son’s teacher many years back. After reading it, I asked her if I could share her diary with the participants of this training. She agreed and when she came to talk to us, the participants had already read it and had several questions for her in regards to the information she had written in it. 

At the end of her presentation she said she had a pressing question to all of us about something that was happening with her son now that he had transitioned out of the school system, and she felt she was at dead end.

In these parent-professional exchanges, several things happened that are worth pointing out: 

  1. Her story brought us back to what is real: the struggles, the successes, the pain, the happiness, the challenges that these families go through.

  2. It reminded us that we are working with people who are facing deep challenges and who need to be treated with respect and empathy.

  3. It brought to us a perspective that it is not our own, which is critical if we want to do a good job.

  4. In a nutshell, it grounded us.

When she asked her question to us, it was a tough and complex question. None of us with our experience and knowledge could answer it right away. There was a long silence, until someone broke the ice by asking a clarifying question.  From the professional contribution it is worth to point out the following:

  1. The answer was collective. It started by someone asking a question, another person saying something that was not exactly the answer, but with an intent to move towards the answer. Finally, two or three people came up with ideas that the parent thought could help her, her son and her family. 

  2. It was very interesting to analyze, after the fact, how the collective contribution in the quest for solutions to complex situations was so critical

  3. The professionals brought an “outside perspective” of people who are outside of the challenge, and who have a wealth of experiences they had had with other students and families. 

In conclusion, the final analysis found that this successful collaboration between parent and professionals happened because the parent and the professionals were respectful, and open to share and listen to each other.


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Topic: Gloria: Successful Collaboration Between Parents and Professionals

Date: 03/25/2010

By: Inquiring parent

Subject: Parent & Professionals

I am the parent of a child with multiple disabilities. Our schools district used to be very open with parents. Then 2 years ago, like night and day, they literally closed the system to parents having students in special education placements that are outside the general education classroom.
The school district is framing their action as FERPA regulated.
However, FERPA disagrees with this assessment.
This has placed a tremendous strain on Parent/Professional Collaboration.
Is this happening in other schools that have special programs that server those students with multiple disabilities including DB? And more importantly, for the student's best interest, how do parents and teachers get around this dispiriting administrative actiion?


Date: 03/26/2010

By: Gloria Rodriguez-Gil

Subject: Re: Parent & Professionals

I am not sure if I understand the issue with your school district. Could you elaborate more on the issue? You are saying that the school district “literally closed the system to parents with students in special ed”. What do you mean by “close the system”? Are you talking about only students who attend special day classrooms or are in special education schools?

I was reading about FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) and it says that this is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.


Date: 03/15/2010

By: tactiletheworld

Subject: choice of communication btwn parents/db child?

While I find this very interesting and productive, I'm stumped with the answer as to what was discussed - communication between professionals and parents of db children is the topic here, but what about what the professionals are teaching parents, what are parents telling profis about their child? Is communication between parent/child discussed in this group - i.e. using oral method or sign language? Just curious - it would be appreciative if you elaborated more on what made this 'successful"?


Date: 03/22/2010

By: Gloria Rodriguez-Gil

Subject: Re: choice of communication btwn parents/db child?

The discussion was only about the parent sharing with the professionals her experience with her son who is deaf-blind, and then later the parent asking a question to the professionals about an issue regarding her son. It was not about all the other aspects that you mention in your comment. It was successful because it was an open, respectful and honest exchange and everybody contributed and learned from the experience.


Date: 02/19/2010

By: Clara Berg

Subject: Parents & Professionals

Great approach allowing the families to take the lead on the discussion.