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Binder Information
Table of Contents
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9

Chapter 8

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 all possible.


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 lose consciousness?” may provide valuable information.

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 included.

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.






Communication with parent should be ongoing


8.4 - General Tips for Talking With Parents

  • 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 find out.
  • 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 situation.
  • 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 9

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