What is the part of the teacher/therapists?  How do we facilitate families through the grieving/acceptance process?

Resources:
Carney, A., & Moeller, M., (1998). Treatment efficacy: Hearing loss in children. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 41. 61-84.

Seabrook, J., & Rodda, M., (1991). Parental response to deafness: How can we help? ACEHI/ACEDA, 17 (64-70).

Watkins, S., & Clark, T., (1993). Ski*Hi Model Resource Manual,  Hyrum: Downs Printing.

Summary:
The success of a deaf and hard of hearing child’s reading and math skills depend on the level of acceptance and accommodations made by the parent (Carney and Moeller, 1998).  Therefore, it is very important that we as educators facilitate parents toward acceptance as effectively as possible.  The therapist should be aware that no two people or families experience these feelings in the same rate or to the same degree.  However, families with a child that has a hearing loss often experience similar characteristics on the road to acceptance (Watkins & Clark, 1993).

The Ski Hi curriculum advocates their parent advisors working collaboratively with families.  This philosophy supports early intervention as prescribed by the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) (Watkins & Clark,1993).  Since every family and child are different it is important for professionals to be observant, understanding and flexible.  These characteristics will assist in identifying each families needs and strengths.  These informal observations/discussions will guide the team in creating appropriate goals and objectives (Watkins & Clark, 1993).

It is important that a parent-advisor work with each child from a family-centered perspective.  This perspective will take the child’s whole life situation into perspective.  Family centered means developing a partnership with parents and planing goals to meet “basic needs”, as well as “ongoing medical, financial and legal needs” (Watkins & Clark, 1993, 160).

As partners, the child’s family and the parent advisor will act as equals have the same established goals.  As in any partnership, each partner has something to offer the team.  The parent advisor will bring knowledge and the ability to support the child from a family-centered perspective.  One of the most important roles a facilitator will have is to teach the parents how to interact with their child.  Without knowledge and ample resources a parent advisor is not likely to be successful (Watkins & Clark, 1993).

The role of a parent advisor is very challenging and not to be approached lightly.  It is possible that well educated professionals with more than adequate resources could fail in this position.  Failure would be almost definite if the parent advisor was not sensitive to the families needs.  Along with providing support it is important to be aware of cultural diversity, socioeconomic backgrounds, educational opportunities, lifestyle, and many other family issues.  Most importantly, it is necessary that this awareness be done without presenting a threat or placing judgement on the family structure.  If parents feel threatened, intimidated or controlled by the parent advisor then an equal partnership has not been developed (Watkins & Clark, 1993).

Researchers at Utah State University recommend keeping three fundamentals in mind when providing a family with support services.  They believe that it is important to remember that language begins at birth with intervention beginning as soon as possible.  A parent advisor’s role is NOT to make decisions or share biases with families.  A professional’s bias could cause confusion and be harmful to the people involved.  It is best to present the parents with objective information about various forms of communication (Watkins & Clark, 1993).

When a family has made a decision, it has been my experience that they will ask for assistance.  At this time it will be important to provide information and teach skills that will support their decision.  If a different mode of communication is better for an individual child, time will make this apparent.  Remember that a new mode of communication can be taught, if the one chosen is not appropriate.  These interpersonal skills and professional knowledge will assist a well organized, planned out person to become a successful parent advisor.  This person will assist families in achieving success for themselves and their child.

Insights:

It is obvious that there are three tools that are beneficial to a parent-infant facilitator. The ability to listen and work with families is one.  The other two are a curriculum made for this population and the assistance of a mentor.  A person who has experience in this area is priceless when they are willing to share their knowledge.

As a teacher enters a families home it is important for her to remember that “teachers were able to increase parents’ sensitivity to their child’s abilities” (Seabrook & Rodda, 68, 1991).  Bonder-Johnson (1985) found that “teachers were able to encourage parents to develop positive and realistic expectations by providing opportunities for parents to observe their child and by highlighting the child’s potential” (Seabrook & Rodda, 68, 1991).  The studies prove that teachers do make a difference.  It is your attitude and knowledge that will assist parents through the grieving process.

Bibliography:

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