Early childhood special education services assist parents of infants and toddlers with special needs. Therefore, how can teachers assist the parents and families to cope with the challenges?
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Research in the area of special education, parenting, and government support for coping has been one of the primary goals of IDEA, the American with Disabilities Act, and even the American Psychological Association. A study that specifically talks about the APA efforts to help parents is by Barlow, Powell, Gilchirst, and Fotiadou (2008) called "The effectiveness of the Training and Support Program for parents of children with disabilities: A randomized controlled trial" published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 64, 55-62.
What this program does is intervene with parents of students with disabilities by educating them on the options (not on the limitations) and the positive challenges that come from having a unique child. By focusing on the uniqueness of the child there is a degree of acceptance and even enjoyment that comes out of learning skills along with the child. Support systems also include focus groups and counseling teams where parents are allowed to vent without judgement. Studies made in the UK in the above-mentioned experiment measured the level of frustration of parents before and after the intervention and the report states that such level dropped considerably.
Teachers can use the research presented in the article by gathering research facts, by putting together a list of local parent groups, and even by inviting parents to observe a typical day in the sped or self-contained classroom. By keeping a record of the goals achieved by the students, the parents are more aware of the accomplishments of their child. Most importantly, a well-trained teacher will also be willing and able to answer any question posed by parents. Parents are as affected by their child's disability as the child is. Therefore, it is imperative that a plan of action is in place; one that involves questions/answers, documentation of accomplishments, empirical experiences (parent observing, analyzing, maybe evaluating what they see), and the chance to be hands on with their children in reaching specific goals.
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