Posted by: Tammy Cravit | December 9, 2010

Trusting the Team

Any parent of a child with special educational needs can tell you that the Special Education process is full of opportunities for conflict. One of the places I’ve often seen conflict arise comes when parents and a particular professional team member come together for the first time.

My daughter’s teachers, resource aides, school psychologists and so forth have learned where I’m coming from. They know that I expect to be a fully participating member of the team. They’ve learned that I know the law, I understand the procedures, and I have the conflict competencies to work effectively in that setting.

Another parent I know, on the other hand, approaches her daughter’s Special Education team from a very different perspective. Her basic assumption is that the school’s trying to shortchange her daughter, and that any services she gets are provided reluctantly by the school because of the noise she makes. As a result, she approaches Special Education meetings with a high-conflict mindset and with little to no trust in the people who make up the Special Education team.

I am not suggesting her position is unreasonable, or that she’s acting from questionable motives. Far from it, I think those are the only ways she’s been able to get her daughter what she needs in the past, and so that’s the way she continues to operate.

But there’s a better way.

As a Special Education Facilitator, I help families of kids with special educational needs gain the skills and knowledge to be fully informed members of their childrens’ education teams. Part of that job often involves teaching conflict resolution strategies, and explaining rules and procedures.

Armed with that knowledge and those skills, the interaction between parents and professionals changes dramatically. Parents who understand the “how” and “why” of the recommendations the teachers and psychologists are making will trust those recommendations. In turn, the professionals will see a parent who’s willing and able to be a fully-participating member of the team.

As trust grows, the team’s ability to function increases. Everyone wins – especially the child whose education is the focus of the whole process. Trust changes the game, and everyone comes out better as a result.

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