OCSLHA

Oakland County Speech-Language-Hearing Association

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WORK WITH PARENTS AND ADVOCATE
FOR THE CHILD IN
THE SCHOOL

by Ellen Bouchard

Parents are overwhelmed. They may be frightened. Often they are tired. They have had it with professionals who don‘t relate to them as real people. They may be defensive because nobody understands what they are going through. Often they are tired of explaining or asking for help.

Many parents are not willing to have their child categorized in any way. The brain injured child is supposed to be placed in the least restrictive environment.

You are the professionaL The most professional thing I can think of is to be real with parents who are going through something you will never, hopefully, have to understand the way they do.

Respect them. Listen to them. Share your experiences with them, both professionally and personally.

Ask parents questions. Show them you’re truly interested in wanting to know about their child, the ordeal they’ve been going through, their frustrations, their moments of success, their goals for their child. Listen to them so carefully that you will be able to ask them questions you hadn’t even thought of based on what they tell you. Be spontaneous with them. Ask them about themselves.

Talk to the medical team. Learn as much as you can about the traumatic brain injury, the rehabilitation efforts and goals, how you can carryover what has been addressed thus far in the rehabilitation process.

The more you learn, the more you know, the greater will be the assistance you can give the parents, the child, and the school personnel; the greater will be your involvement and satisfaction working with everyone involved.

Write notes home to the parents. Tell them something wonderful their child did on a particular day. Keep them informed of the goals and the progress. Always try to write notes in a positive way, even when the information may not be as positive.

Compliment the parents for their hard work on behalf of their child.  Don’t judge their effort. It may be different then you would want but it’s the best they can do even if you think it isn’t.

Don’t patronize them. You know when someone is patronizing you....so will they.

Learn about diverse cultures. The approach to care and the level of involvement and expectation may differ in different cultures. Being able to relate to families from backgrounds different from your own is crucial to building trust and engaging them in the process you are undertaking with their child.  It will also help you help the child.

Economics, education, and energy... these factors will affect parental involvement as well.

Advocate for the child in the school.  If you think he or she is in the wrong classroom environment or identify other needs, don’t keep it to yourself.

Nobody knows the child like the parent. Nobody’s hopes and dreams are as vested in the child.  Listen to the parents, include them, involve them, respond to them. You have the child for a little while. They have their child for a lifetime. You can help make it more successful.

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This page last updated on 04/30/08

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