What roles do these people play in the lives of children with disabilities? Or, more importantly, what should their roles be?

We see it being played out every day in the classroom, the home, the therapy sessions, and the IEP meetings. The scenario is usually the same. The parent is mistrustful of the professional’s tactics and motives. The professional believes the parent’s ideas are uninformed or impractical. The result is almost always adversarial. And what a shame, for it is neither the parent nor the professional who loses in the end. It is always the child and his or her real needs that seem to be sacrificed when the two sides will not come together.

We know that this is the historical and current state of these relationships. Our focus should then be on looking at what the relationships could and should be. And, perhaps, how do we get from one point to another.

The first step should always be to look at the vision of the family for the child. For without that we do not know what we are working towards. And if we don’t know that, we don’t know what steps to take to get there. This must be done as a team together. The professionals must be able to open their minds to the ideas the parent has for their child and be able to work with them towards reaching these goals.

After everyone can believe in the vision, they need to focus on the child themselves. The very uniqueness of him or her. Not the child’s diagnosis and the typical manifestations of that diagnosis. We do not proceed to work on the disability as if it has to be taken away or fixed in some way. Nor do we try to teach the child not to be who they are. We take the child for who he or she is and use all that they are capable of and begin to build on these things, to teach them what they need in order to fulfill the vision.

This is usually a very hard concept for professionals to grasp. Particularly the fact that there actually is a future life for this child and an ultimate goal that we are trying to reach. They cannot seem to see beyond the classroom or the therapy session or the short-term objectives of the IEP. Thus the relationship between parent and professional begins to break down. If the professional cannot grasp the idea of the ultimate outcome for the life of the child, they cannot understand the requests and demands that the parents are making. And therefore, it is nearly impossible for them to comply.

We must not forget either, that a professional will assume the dominant controlling role in the relationship, and a parent with little experience or education will allow this and assume the role of the subordinate. Believing that “they’re the experts, they must know what’s right.” Parents and “experts” must enter this relationship knowing the roles each has in the life of the child. Parents must realize that they are responsible for the destiny and well-being of their children. Professionals must know that they are there to assist and support the families as they strive for the best possible life for their children. It is not up to the Doctor, Teacher, Administrator, or Therapist to decide what this child can or cannot do or what their life will or will not be.

A professional with an open mind and a belief in the child’s right to a fulfilling life within our real world is the best friend a parent of a child with a disability can have. As parents, there is no doubt that we need the support and skills of professionals to help our children succeed, Every parent and every child needs that. We are interdependent upon each other.

Our children’s lives are in all of our hands, And it is up to all of us to strive for the best life possible for them. We must remember that none of, parents or professionals, are slaves to “The System.” With creativity and focus on the children and their needs, they can have the education they need/ It cannot, however, be accomplished one without the other. And there must be a common understanding of the desired outcome or the most common problems now faced in these relationships will not be solved.

Remember the child, remember the vision!

Written by Tammy Sutton
Material Copyrighted 1996 Kids Together®
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