Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Early Services for Children with Special Needs: Transactions for Family Support

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Early Services for Children with Special Needs: Transactions for Family Support

Article excerpt

Early Services for Children with Special Needs: Transactions for Family Support,

THE NATURE

OF PARENT-PROFESSIONAL

RELATIONSHIPS

Parent-professional relationships have become a concern largely because of parents who have broken the quiet saint stereotype to articulate their needs for services, and their desire not to be disenfranchised recipients of these services. Broad social trends have helped their efforts. The civil rights movement has offered a model. Persons with disabilities and their families were, like other minorities, often not part of making policy decisions that affected them. While some advocacy groups for children and for persons with disabilities have long histories, the consumer advocacy movement that became popular in the late sixties also gave new strength to parental efforts on behalf of children. These trends, along with a growing scientific understanding of the role parents play in the development of the atrisk or disabled child, lend scientific, practical, and moral weight to having parents in charge.

At its best, the parent-professional relationship may never be a relaxed one. While most parents and professionals involved with early intervention services have some experience of productive and warm relationships with each other, complaints are common enough to shape identifiable stereotypes. For the parents, complaints may revolve around professionals who have been insensitive, or who "use" their children for their own education. Parents' greatest concern is that professionals don't value the parents' perceptions of the child's competencies and deficits, of appropriate goals for the child, or of how the child's needs must be balanced with other family needs. For the professionals, the parents can be seen as unrealistic, as making insatiable and exhausting demands for answers, and as people who use professionals as scapegoats for the child's problems or failure to progress.

There are many factors that influence the nature of the relationship between parents and professionals. Like anyone who provides a service, the early intervention professional would like parents to be pleased with, and perhaps even grateful for, their services. But, in the words of one parent: "At the bottom what parents really want is a child who is all right. …

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