Montclair State University Psychoeducational Center: A Model for Parental Involvement

By Madley, Rebecca H. | The Exceptional Parent, September 1998 | Go to article overview

Montclair State University Psychoeducational Center: A Model for Parental Involvement


Madley, Rebecca H., The Exceptional Parent


New Jersey's Montclair State University Psychoeducational Center educates and trains people who work with children who have special needs. Its focus is on parent education---carrying over classroom lessons into the home. The Psychoeducational Center works in conjunction with the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders to serve the needs of the community as well as the University student body.

"When we meet a family, we talk to them about forming a partnership," says Toni Spiotta, director of the Psychoeducational Center. "We are interested in sharing information in a way that allows us to influence one another. This calls for frequent communication between all parties."

Essentially, three of the center's programs teach parents how to enhance their child's learning abilities. These include the Demonstration Preschool, the Early Intervention program, and the Assessment program.

The Demonstration Preschool

Composed of children, ages three to five, the Demonstration Preschool serves children who have developmental delays, difficulty relating to people, and those who have Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD). Dr. Lucille Weistuch, coordinator of the Demonstration Preschool, states, "We are very concerned about parent involvement so we communicate with them on a daily basis through the use of `tell-me books.' These are books passed between parents and teachers that discuss a child's progress, difficulties, etc."

Cheryl Bruskin, whose son, Julian, five, has participated in the Demonstration Preschool for two years comments, "I liked using the `tell-me' books because I had always wanted to write a journal but I didn't have the means or the time to do it. It was a wonderful way to document how each milestone was reached." She also says this was only one way to become an integral part of the program. She adds, "We work as a team. The teachers expect me, and all parents, to participate in team meetings. They don't just teach the children and then send them home; and we don't just drop our kids off and hope they come back `cured.' The most important thing is to work along with them as a part of their team and we can do that by following through at home with the tips they give us."

In one of the activities, the staff asks parents to make a list of things that their child likes, and what the child can do with those things. For instance, if the child's favorite animal is a dinosaur, the staff has many dinosaurs in the classroom for the child. They work to help the child notice all of the information about the dinosaur such as the sounds it may make, what it can do (walk, run, eat), and how the dinosaur can do all of those things with other dinosaurs.

Another important aspect of this exercise is "floor time." Spiotta explains, "During `floor time,' the adult follows the child's lead in playing with a particular toy or doing a particular activity." The purpose of this activity is to get the child to use the toy as a means of communicating with the teacher or parent. The activity also makes the child more comfortable with the adult being in "their world."

Spiotta comments, "One way you can use this activity at home would be, for example, during bath time. Bath time between parent and child can be just as important as `floor time' with the child at school. At bath time, the child is communicating with the parent through playing in the water with their favorite object (shampoo bottle, rubber ducky, soap, etc.).

Taking it to another level

"Station time" is another method sometimes used in conjunction with "floor time." Spiotta explains, "The children are allowed to go to a particular station (different areas of the room which may include a painting section, a puzzle section, or a kitchen set-up)." The child may incorporate the object they use in "floor time" into what they are doing. So, if the child's favorite thing is a teddy bear, he or she might paint a picture of the teddy bear. …

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