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Building Bridges with Families: The Power of Reciprocity . Equity Forum Equity Alliance at ASU Beth Harry Professor, Special Education University of Miami March 1, 2011 (Adapted from Kalyanpur & Harry, Culture in Special Education: Building Reciprocal Relationships with Familie s).

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building bridges with families the power of reciprocity
Building Bridges with Families: The Power of Reciprocity

Equity Forum

Equity Alliance at ASU

Beth Harry

Professor, Special Education

University of Miami

March 1, 2011

(Adapted from Kalyanpur & Harry, Culture in Special Education: Building Reciprocal Relationships with Families)

central assumption culture pervades everything we do
Central Assumption: Culture Pervades Everything We Do
  • Cultural beliefs underlie
    • legal requirements (e.g., IDEA built on principles of individualism and equity)
    • knowledge base (e.g., science, not spirituality, explains and treats disability)
    • practice (e.g., goal setting, interaction style, beliefs about “good parenting”
cultural underpinnings of special education law
Cultural Underpinnings of Special Education Law
    • Individualism: choice, equity
    • Scientific explanations of disability
    • Professional vs. everyday knowledge
    • Collective concepts of self: group needs
    • Spiritual interpretations of disability
    • Conflict: professional/everyday knowledge
cultural reciprocity
Cultural Reciprocity
  • cultural reciprocity: respecting and learning about other cultures while sharing information with families regarding American culture
  • key is cultural self-awareness
the cultural reciprocity process
The Cultural Reciprocity Process
  • Step 1: Reflect on personal biases and assumptions driving your own recommendations
  • Step 2: Invite, question, listen to parents’ perspective
  • Step 3: Explain service provider’s perspective
  • Step 4: Identify common ground and develop collaborative goals
3 parent professional conflicts resulting from cultural differences
3 Parent-Professional Conflicts Resulting from Cultural Differences
  • parents in denial: won’t face facts!
  • no parent participation: they don’t care about children’s education!
  • problem comes from home: it’s cultural!
complaint i they re in denial
Complaint # I: “They’re in Denial”

FOUR reasons:

  • more intimate and more nuanced knowledge of the child
  • cultural definitions of what’s “normal”
  • spiritual vs. physical interpretations
  • individual vs. group identity within families
  • “in disagreement” rather than “denial”
disagreement 1 intimate parental knowledge
Disagreement #1: Intimate Parental Knowledge
  • parents have more intimate and nuanced knowledge of child’s skills than school personnel
  • traits and abilities may not be displayed at school: importance of context
  • professionals often quick to discount parent reports
  • remember parents know child better than you do!
disagreement 2 cultural definitions of disability
Disagreement # 2: Cultural Definitions of Disability
  • disagreement between parents and professionals related to different cultural definitions of disability
  • different parameters of “normalcy” based on cultural/SES expectations
  • cultural change over time
disagreement 3 physical vs spiritual definitions
Disagreement # 3: Physical vs. Spiritual Definitions
  • parents may interpret the cause of child’s condition as spiritual rather than physical
  • physical condition reflects spiritual meaning
  • western belief in science emphasizes physical/medical causes and treatments
disagreement 4 individual vs group constructions of identity
Disagreement # 4: Individual vs. Group Constructions of Identity
  • American individualism leads to interpretation that disability belongs entirely to individual, not family
  • many other groups: a collective sense of identity results in parents seeking explanations of differences within recent or past family history
complaint 2 they won t come to meetings
Complaint #2: They Won’t Come to Meetings!

Four reasons:

  • built-in conflict between call for collaboration and belief in professional “expertise”
  • histories of alienation
  • alienating professional language
  • alienating interaction processes
reason 1 role expectations professional family views
Reason #1: Role Expectations – Professional/Family Views
  • professional training reflects belief in expertise in diagnosis and treatment
  • difficult for professionals to recognize parents as experts with their children
  • belief in scientific knowledge vs. everyday knowledge
  • democratic vs. hierarchical expecations
reason 2 historical issues
Reason #2: Historical Issues
  • history of exclusion of African Americans from mainstream education, and of integration into unwelcoming school systems, resulted in deep mistrust of school authorities
  • school authorities have responsibility of building trust, not assuming that it has been earned
reason 3 professional spoken language
Reason #3: Professional Spoken Language
  • objectified”: ”service delivery system”
  • medicalized: “auditory, visual, perceptual” (listening, looking, interpreting)
  • abstracted: “manipulatives” (toys, materials)
  • incomprehensible jargon
  • translation issues
power of the written word
Power of the Written Word
  • reinforces value of professional pronouncements about children
  • written findings in reports reinforce impressions of validity
  • process of reification: profile of deficiency
  • parents with low literacy/limited English proficiency find school letters intimidating
reason 4 participation structures
Reason #4: Participation Structures
  • manner of conducting conferences often contradicts ideal of participation
  • studies of parent participation at conferences show clear hierarchy:
    • parent vs. professional introductions
    • order, style, and timing of reports
    • parent input limited or not invited till end
    • disrespectful, inattentive interactions
    • no translators or poor translation
complaint 3 it comes from the home
Complaint # 3: “It Comes from the Home!”
  • Three discrepant views:
    • family structure, roles and authority patterns
    • family interactions: enmeshment vs. disengagement (individuality vs. collectivism)
    • independence, work, and individuality
view 1 family structure roles authority
View #1: Family Structure, Roles, Authority
  • mainstream model of family structure in America not a reality for many
  • nuclear family (“intact” family) increasingly rare in America
  • focus on “risk”
  • little recognition of “resilience”
view 2 family structure and interactions
View #2: Family Structure and Interactions
  • assumption: family interaction style should reflect American ideal of independence and individuality
  • theories of ideal family interaction: balance “enmeshment” and “disengagement”
  • assumptions about authority patterns and discipline practices
view 3 independence
View #3: “Independence”
  • a key goal on IFSP/IEP e.g., breast or bottle feeding
  • transition goals from adolescence to adulthood
  • independence vs. interdependence
  • friends who are not family members
  • training for supported employment
  • does not matter whether we agree with unfamiliar parental views
  • what matters is that we recognize our views are reflections of our culture
  • so are the views of the parents!
  • remembering this, we can listen with respect, without negative judgment that shows on our faces and in our voices
daily cultural clashes
Daily Cultural Clashes
  • Subtle, implicit, unacknowledged
    • Tone of voice
    • Facial expression
    • Disagreement interpreted as denial
    • Belief that parents don’t care
    • Detrimental home environments
    • No first-hand knowledge of the home
parents responses
Parents’ Responses
  • refusal to respond to invitations
  • say “yes”
  • silence
final word
  • Next time you hear yourself or a colleague utter one of these exclamations, STOP and say to yourself or your friend:
    • Denial? Or disagreement?
    • They don’t come because they don’t care? Or because they don’t feel needed or respected?
    • Say, “so their behavior is “cultural?” So is mine!