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
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
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
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
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.