Role of the Parents
8.1 Myths and Misconceptions
8.2 Role of the Parent
8.3 Words of Caution
8.4 General Tips for Talking With Parents
8.5 Strategies for Maintaining Regular Parent-Teacher Communication
8.1 - Myths and Misconceptions
|Educational decisions are solely the responsibility
of the educator and school staff.
|The ultimate responsibility
for all decisions about a child lies with the parents. Therefore,
it is essential that educators seek their input and give them
a central role on the team.
|Parents always know that their child has
sustained a head injury.
|Some mild head injuries are
never medically diagnosed. In addition, impairments resulting
from a brain injury that occurred at an early age may not
manifest themselves for several years due to the developmental
nature of the brain.
|Special education resource personnel at
the system level are generally wellinformed about brain injury.
|Until very recently, there
has been almost no mention of ABI in faculties of education
training courses. ABI is still not recognized as a distinct
disability by the Ministry of Education.
8.2 - Role of the Parent
Educators come and go out of a student’s life from year to year,
but parents are a constant as the student progresses through school.
This means that the parents can be an invaluable resource in the
educational process. This can be especially true for the parents
of a child with ABI.
If the ABI has reached a critical turning point in a student’s
life, the parents are often driven to learn about the nature of
their child’s disability and can become quite knowledgeable with
regard to ABI. Because of this parents can be an invaluable part
of the educational team by providing:
- Information about the nature of the injury and the resulting
physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioural impairments.
- Information about the developmental progress and/ or learning
styles of the student prior to the injury.
- A link to the medical and rehabilitation professionals who
may be able to offer valuable input into strategies that may
work or may be worth investigating.
- A link during periods of transition from grade to grade or
school to school.
- Information on the student’s reaction to school when the
student is not at school. (A parent who reports that a student
is doing 5 hours of homework a night to keep up with his Grade
6 class assignments is providing the educator with a major alert
that curriculum or strategies need to be adjusted.)
- Information about the student’s social interactions, interests,
likes, dislikes, etc.
- A model of a positive attitude towards school and learning.
(Parents who haven’t been made to feel as though they are a
valued part of the educational team can also model and reinforce
a negative attitude.)
- Assistance in helping the student practice and further develop
skills learned at school.
8.3 - Words of Caution
Parents of children who have sustained an ABI have most likely
been through an extremely traumatic experience and therefore are
even more cautious and protective of their child.
Try to see student from the parents’ perspective.
Parents who have lived through the terror of a severe trauma
to their child may have a very special perspective on that child
and the school. They may have been told that their child might
never walk or talk again. They may have been told that their child
would not live, except perhaps in a comatose state. If they have
seen their child defy the worst of the medical prognostications,
they may feel they have witnessed a “miracle.” In fact, in many
cases the miracle happened only with the commitment and dedication
of parents who continued to work and to hope when others had lost
hope for the child’s recovery. Such parents may see the delays
in learning or the disruptive behaviours as minor compared to
what they had been led to expect.
Help parents develop a realistic view of their child’s performance.
It is not uncommon for some parents to struggle with acceptance
of their child’s brain injury, especially if the physical symptoms
have healed and disappeared. In such cases, parents may be experiencing
extreme frustration, and may need some help to understand that
what is perceived as “a lack of effort” or “defiant and disruptive
behaviour” may be the result of the brain injury. Parents who
are in this state may need help from the educator, the school
psychologist, or other professionals to come to a realistic view
of their child’s performance.
Allow time for parents to adjust.
If it is determined that a student is going to receive special
education support, it is important to remember that the parents,
as well as the student, may be entering the field of special education
for the first time. This can be an overwhelming experience, filled
with jargon and procedures familiar to schools and school staff
but foreign to parents. Be sure to take time to allow the parents
to gain information at a comfortable rate and adjust to the changed
perspective and plan for their child.
Be aware that a student’s performance may not be what it seems.
Many brain injuries go undiagnosed or are forgotten when the
student appears to make a complete recovery. Later, as the student
progresses through the developmental stages and reaches an age
when higherlevel academic challenges present themselves, suddenly
he or she is unable to cope. It is easy to jump to the conclusion
that the student has stopped trying. In such cases, it is always
wise to look for other causes, including investigating with parents
any possible physical cause for the change in performance.
Become informed about ABI.
Because there are often no outward signs of ABI and because each
ABI manifests itself in different ways and requires different
strategies, educators need to make themselves familiar with the
disability or to at least be aware of the sources of assistance
when a student with an ABI presents special challenges in the
classroom. In some cases, the best information and resources may
come from the parent, but in other cases it is the educator who
can lead this discussion and present valuable information.
Looking for answers when a student is not progressing well
While it is crucial to remember that the diagnoses of an ABI
rests solely within the realm of medicine, educators are in a
unique position to observe students over a long period of time
and within the context of a similar-age peer group. This opportunity
for observation and collecting information is invaluable in compiling
a complete picture of a student’s academic, social, and emotional
functioning. Whenever a student is not performing well, for whatever
reason, it is always a good idea for the educator to share his/her
concerns with parents as soon as a pattern of poor performance
is evident. This is best done in a face-to-face meeting, if at
|A simple question such
as, “Has your son or
daughter ever received
a severe blow that has
caused him/her to be
dazed or confused or to
may provide valuable
In looking for explanations for the student’s performance problems,
it is wise to gather information with regard to the student’s
physical well-being. In addition to questions about general health,
current sleeping and eating patterns, and past diseases and illness,
it is advisable that a question regarding trauma to the head be
It is terribly important not to be an alarmist, and certainly
not to suggest that there could be damage to the brain, however,
it is not unheard of to have a parent respond with an answer that
reveals a significant trauma that had occurred years earlier and
has been since forgotten because the student seems to have recovered.
It is appropriate to ask parents about a student’s current and
past health conditions, but drawing conclusions from the answers
is inappropriate. If the answers that parents
give lead you to suspect a medical problem of any kind, it is
best to recommend that the student be taken to a physician and
that the physician be made aware of any present symptoms or past
diseases or injuries.
with parent should
8.4 - General Tips for Talking
- Welcome the parents participation.
- Assure parents that information will remain confidential.
- Consider the physical setting for conversation (do not have
a desk between you and the parents.)
- Be aware of voice tone and body language (yours and theirs).
- Avoid jargon.
- Be open to the perspectives of others. Do not assume that
your version of the facts is the only valid one.
- Work at establishing a partnership of equals. Have as a goal,
shared ownership and shared responsibility.
- Do not monopolize the conversation.
- Remember that parents often have a wealth of information
about their own child. Be open to allowing them to educate you.
- Do not feel that as the educator you have to “know everything.”
This is impossible! What is important is the willingness to
- Keep in mind that differing cultural and social economic
factors do not imply poor parenting.
- Do not take things personally. Often there are factors and
frustrations that have very little to do with the current educational
- Make every effort to maintain the parents’ dignity, particularly
where there are socioeconomic, cultural, or language issues.
- Bear in mind that most parents are doing the best they can.
8.5 - Strategies for Maintaining
Regular Parent-Teacher Communication
- Determine the preferred mode of communication (e.g., telephone,
written notes, face-to-face meetings, e-mail, etc.)
- Establish how often and when communication will occur.
- Have a meeting agenda that lists items that need to be discussed.
- Do not focus only on problems the student is experiencing,
but remember to discuss the accomplishments as well.
- Encourage the parents to participate by allowing them to
provide relevant information about the student, and encourage
them to share the decisionmaking responsibility.
- Make parents aware of their rights and responsibilities around
the IPRC and IEP processes.
Chapter 7 - Chapter