Special Education: Uncooperative Parents

by Howard Gerber on March 15, 2011

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As a special education teacher, you likely feel your vocation is a calling rather than simply a job. Most educators recognize that special education teachers have a unique and difficult position, one that not many people are interested in holding. Because of this, many people in the field of education will respect your assistance and often be quite grateful. Unfortunately, not all parents feel the same way.

As a special education teacher, you are responsible for finding students who are struggling, helping to determine if they are struggling because of a learning disability or delay, and then creating an individualized education plan, or IEP, to help them become successful learners. While it is within your abilities to mold their educational experience while they are in school, you are not able to control what type of educational assistance they receive once they leave. This can be very difficult for some special education teachers, especially those who deal with younger children. The younger the child when they enter the program, the more important it is for intervention in the home. Unfortunately, you will encounter uncooperative parents who would rather not think about a learning disability or delay and who do not want to engage in educational activities at home. In order to increase the likelihood that parents will become more cooperative, it is important to determine why they are resistant initially.

Shame

For some parents, a child that is not “normal” is something to be ashamed of. While they may not verbalize it as such to their child or even themselves, this is often why parents seem uncooperative. They would rather pretend nothing is wrong in a non-educational setting so they will appear to be the same as their friends and neighbors. For this type of parent, it is important to educate them on their child’s disability or delay, and help them see that it is common and that there are steps they can take to positively influence their child’s educational experience. Refer them to parental support groups or play groups for children with similar disabilities, if they are available.

Money

If a child is first diagnosed in a school, it may be because the child had not been taken regularly to a pediatrician due to economic constraints. Pediatricians are able to recognize emotional and educational milestones that can indicate delays and disabilities. If parents have a limited income and were unable to afford routine care, they may also feel unable to financially help their child with their goals outside of school. Create a list of free resources the parents can utilize. If the child has an unusual issue, research any local resources or scholarships that might be beneficial for the parents or child.

Time

Even if a parent understands the disability is nothing to be ashamed of and they have the financial resources to help their child outside of school, they may not have the time to do so because of work or other family obligations. For these parents, provide a list of online resources as well as a variety of community resources they may be able to utilize during down time.

Which of these have you found to be the primary reason parents are uncooperative? Do you find you are able to help them become more engaged in their child’s education by providing access and information to resources? What tools do you use to get parents involved outside of the classroom?

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