Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

A Comparison of Teacher and Caregiver Perspectives of Collaboration in the Education of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

A Comparison of Teacher and Caregiver Perspectives of Collaboration in the Education of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Article excerpt

Special education regulations in the United States have provided guidelines for the active participation of caregivers in the education of their children. The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, most currently revised in 2004, has specific provisions for caregiver participation. Furthermore, research has demonstrated the benefits of collaborative relationships between school and home, which include improved academic and social outcomes (Benson, Karlof, & Siperstein, 2008; Blair, Lee, Cho, & Dunlap, 2011; Chu, 2014; Ludicke & Kortman, 2012; Moes & Frea, 2002; West & Pirtle, 2014) and enhanced family well-being (Koegel, Bimbela, & Schriebman, 1996; Renty & Roeyers, 2005).

Caregiver perspectives are vital in the evaluation of schools' collaborative efforts. In this article, we use the term caregivers to mean parents, families, or anyone involved in raising a child with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The terms caregivers, parents, and families are used interchangeably in this report. Caregiver evaluation of classroom practices, the development of family-focused interventions, and teacher initiatives to facilitate collaboration can provide valuable feedback to schools and to university teacher training programs. Results from studies that have examined views of caregivers of children with disabilities have provided valuable information about how to facilitate meaningful school-family partnerships.

Literature Review

A number of factors influence collaboration and equal membership in a school-family partnership. Potential facilitators of collaboration include a number of educational practices, family-centered practices, and collaborative practices that are highlighted in this article. Research findings indicate that, for meaningful collaboration to occur, caregivers value receiving information from educators about their child's progress, being provided opportunities to participate in decision making, and incorporating the needs and desires of the family when developing interventions (Hebel & Persitz, 2014; Paige-Smith & Rix, 2006; Park & Turnbull, 2002). As a whole, these research reports highlight the importance of understanding caregivers' perceived needs. Caregivers serve a key role in the education of student with disabilities, and for that reason, schools should undertake efforts to encourage caregiver involvement and to facilitate meaningful home-school partnerships that will ultimately benefit the students.

Educational Practices

A number of experimental studies have demonstrated that caregivers have opinions about what facilitates effective collaborative partnerships (Brewin, Renwick, & Schormans, 2008; Chu, 2014; Granlund & Roll-Pettersson, 2001; Hebel & Persitz, 2014; Renty & Roeyers, 2005; Stoner et al., 2005). Caregivers in these studies tended to rate a higher degree of satisfaction with teachers who understood the unique learning needs of children with ASD, who created a safe and calm learning environment, who kept them updated on their child's progress, and who possessed an overall eagerness to help children with ASD make progress academically and socially. Caregivers of children with ASD want their children to have teachers who show genuine respect for their children, possess the training and skills necessary to successfully support their children's appropriate behaviors, and continually search for new knowledge and resources to update their skills (Brewin et al., 2008; Hebel & Persitz, 2014; Mueller, Singer, & Draper, 2008; Park & Turnbull, 2002).

Another key finding in the research lies in effective communication processes between home and school. In several studies (Chu, 2014; Granlund & Roll-Pettersson, 2001; Staples & Diliberto, 2010), caregivers reported a greater sense of unity and a shared desire to work toward their children's success when teachers actively communicated information to caregivers about children's school performance. …

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