Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Panel Discussion On "Working With Parents"

National Institute for the mentally handicapped (NIMH) RC (Regional Centre), Navi Mumbai is involved in the human resource development. As a part of their activity they conduct CRE- (continuing rehabilitation education) for professionals working in the field of disability.

‘Capacity Building’ in NGO’s was the subject for the CRE that was organized from 2nd Feb to 6th Feb.2009 One of the topics discussed in the CRE was ‘Working with parents’.

A Panel Discussion was held on the 4th Feb at NIMH. Mrs. Dipti Bakshi, Mrs. Nirmala Mohandoss, Mrs. Anika Gurung and Mrs. Laveena Birani and all the parents of special students of Swami Brahmnand Pratishthan were the panel members.

The panel discussion began with a formal round of introduction of the panel members and the participants. The main objective of the discussion was to project parent’s perspectives towards the grievances expressed by the professionals working with the special children.

The participants were asked to write down about the challenges faced by them while working with parents. These queries were then handed over to Mrs. Sukanya Venkataraman who was the moderator at the panel discussion.

The panelists answered all the queries of the participants. Following are the questions asked:

· Why parents don’t send students to School?
· Do parents give more attention to their normal kids? Do they differentiate between their special kids and normal kids?
· Can special children learn?
· Parents do not follow up the program planned by the special educator and give little attention to their home work.
· Parents don’t attend meetings and even if they do attend only mothers attend and Fathers never attend meetings .Why?
· Why do parents lay more stress on Academics and show little interest towards extra curricular activities?
· How do parents handle the behavioral problems of their children?
· Do they expect guidance form professionals with respect to sexual problems of their children?
· What effect does the birth of a special child have on the family members? How does the society, neighbors and relatives interact with the special child?
· How do you involve the siblings in the development of your special child?
· When both parents are working they are not able to carry out certain activities and this hampers the child’s development. Teachers feel that they too have 12 children in their class and hence are not able to attend to the child individually. What is the responsibility of the parents here?
· Do the parent pressurize the teachers because they are worried about their children or is there any other reason?
· Even though the child has reached the age of 18 parents still feel that their child should learn academics. What is their opinion about vocational training? What assistance do they expect from the Institution? How will they contribute towards this?
· What do parents think about the future of their child?
· What do you think of special schools in a rural set up?
· Are parents aware of the Govt. facilities and do they avail of these benefits?
· Sometimes parents use their special child for their own benefit.
· Why do parents give more importance to speech therapy rather than to the special education?
· Is it true that parents do not want to spend more time or money on their special child?
· What do parents think about the money they spend on their ward even when they know that their child will always be dependent on them?
· How should parents ensure the financial security of their child?
· Can parents freely suggest any changes in the program or the activities to the teachers?
· Are the parent’s suggestions accepted by the teachers?
· Are you able to discuss your child’s problems and achievements with the teachers?
· How can parents be motivated to participate in the school activities and functions?
· What are your expectations from the teacher and the Institution?

Parents Feedback received during discussion

Home is the first school and parents become the first teachers. Both home and the school should work together. Parents and teachers can work together as both possess skills and knowledge. Both have certain insights in to the child. Sharing of information about the child could solve many problems. This sends a message to the child that we are all in it together.

Parents being parents are very attached and affectionate towards their child hence they worry about their child.

Both parents and teachers want what is best for the child but somewhere the message gets lost due to lack of time, lack of transparency and due to lack of communication. Once these barriers are broken this gap between the two can bridged.

We need to work as a team. Both parents and teachers should appreciate each other’s efforts.
Many problems arise due various problems like lack of proper guidance from doctors, paucity of knowledge regarding disabilities, poor awareness on the part of parents and many other reasons. If the child’s program and the activities are explained to the parents before starting the program they become the effective partners who work along with the teacher.
Parents need to have more knowledge about their children. Sharing of knowledge through workshops and seminars will help parents gain knowledge and awareness.

Parents involvement is very important – this indirectly helps the child. Their involvement results in improved achievement, improved behavior and improved confidence of the child. The child also will start coming regularly to the school.

Meetings are held by teachers but most often mothers only attend the meetings. Fathers also want to attend meetings . They may not be able to attend for many reasons – their job commitments could be one of the reasons. In the Indian setup it is always the mother who takes care of the children so naturally it is the mother who also does all the interaction with the teacher. But mothers negligence will affect the child’s development.
Fathers can be motivated to participate in the school activities by giving them specific responsibilities.
Parents become good volunteers – the schools can make use of the expertise of parents and get them involved in the school activities. Once they get involved they start enjoying it .
Good parent teacher communication is required for the child’s progress. The relationship between the two is dynamic. What one does affects the other and in between it is the child who gets affected.
The attitude of the teacher is also of utmost importance as sometimes their way of talking may hurt parents. Often we focus on wrong things and so fail to take advantage of the influence they have together.
When parents and teachers make a mutual commitment to the best interest of the child the child feels supported and feels motivated to learn.
We need to form a strong and healthy foundation for the child.
Siblings can be encouraged to participate in the school activities . this helps in helping the sibling to accept the special child and also helps the child to adjust well with the situation.

Teachers need to be understanding towards the emotional state of the parents. Parents should be made comfortable in the initial stage to help them overcome their grievance and accept their child’s condition. Only then a good rapport can be built between the teacher and the parents.
Parents can also support other parents. Teachers should identify parents who have accepted and adjusted well with their child and school activities and take their help in working with other parents.
Parents suggestions should be accepted and respected by teachers and they must not take this as interference by parents.
Parents do need the help of the professionals in handling certain behavior problems, and sexual problems of the children.
Group counseling will also help the parents in overcoming their problems. Parents also need to be trained so training programs for the parents should be arranged by the school.
Many parents are not aware of the Govt. facilities, so awareness programs by professionals will the parents understand the rights of their child.
Teachers should consider parents as partners not as opponents .

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