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The Significant Other: Working With Parents. Hillary Holmes Itinerant Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Rainbow District School Board.

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the significant other working with parents
The Significant Other: Working With Parents

Hillary Holmes

Itinerant Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Rainbow District School Board

“There were times that my mother spent the afternoon writing out words for films and tapes that I was required to listen to in class so that I could read them later on when I had to do my homework. Many times I would get frustrated with the difficulty in comprehending or understanding some topics, and she’d put up with my tantrums and drive the information into my head… If I had to point to the most important moments that ensured my success, it would be the afternoons with my mother, doing something I absolutely hated doing. “

George Oberlander Jr.

Director of Syska & Hennessy Engineers (N.Y.)

Profound Hearing Loss

itinerants are
Itinerants are….
  • The one constant person as a child progresses through the school system
  • The one person who understands hearing loss
  • The person in the middle of parents and classroom teachers
  • Parents are experts on their children
  • Parents have a unique commitment to their children
  • Parents are members of the educational team

Carolyn Bullard

The Itinerant Teacher’s Handbook

tips on meeting with parents
Tips on Meeting with Parents
  • Introduce all people at the table.
  • Be welcoming and inviting.
  • Speak in clear, easily understood language within a structured process with defined procedures.
  • Don’t ask what the parents want – ask what the child requires.
  • Model to the parents how to communicate collaboratively.
  • Allow sufficient time to talk.
  • Start with a positive comment.
When you run into conflict, it is sometimes useful to employ the “broken record” technique.
  • There will never be enough money or resources – try to accentuate the positive and don’t complain about lack of support. This only destroys parents’ confidence in our abilities.

Jan Heppner

Special Education Consultant

supporting families
Supporting Families
  • Examine your own belief system about your role in working with children and families
  • Expert vs. collaborative role
  • Parents are central to the educational development of their child
  • Acknowledge individual timing of families’ acceptance and management of child’s needs

Carolyn Edwards


dealing with angry parents
Dealing With Angry Parents
  • Stay calm
  • Don’t take it personally
  • Don’t get defensive
  • Try to keep communication open
  • Don’t accept abuse
  • Restate their concerns in your own words to clarify the issues
  • Don’t make promises you cannot keep
  • Ask open-ended questions
when you meet resistance
When you meet resistance:
  • Slow down
  • Ask more questions
  • Ask different questions
  • Listen!
“Most people do not really listen with the intent to understand; rather they listen with the intent to reply.”

Stephen Covey

building trust with parents
Building Trust with Parents:
  • Listen carefully
  • Respect confidentiality
  • Recognize parents as the “expert”
  • Help parent feel comfortable
  • Focus on the child you “share”
  • Keep your promises
  • Learn rather than teach
  • Parents and children sometimes share surprisingly personal information
  • Teachers of the deaf must deal with it
    • With respect
    • With confidentiality
    • Within a set of boundaries
the stages of grieving
The Stages of Grieving
  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

Applies to many aspects of life

which involve pain or loss.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross - On Death and Dying

luterman s stages of grieving
1. Shock

Short term

Parents rarely remember much of what the doctor or audiologist says

Luterman’s Stages of Grieving:
2. Recognition

Strong feelings as the shock wears off

Overwhelmed –too much information

Confused –too many options



Need to over-protect the child

Anger -at the child

-at spouse

-at professionals

- at self

3. Denial

Coping mechanism

Shopping for cures and miracles

Extremely vulnerable

Angry with doctors and other professionals

Parents become active in politics of “deafness” while avoiding own child

4. Acknowledgement

“I have a deaf child and he will always be deaf.”

Measured by condition of child’s hearing aid

Seek professional counselling

“Come out of the closet”

5. Constructive Action

Child offers parents a chance to grow

Recognition that deafness is not the end of the world

Move on with their life and focus on other children

from counselling parents of hearing impaired children by david luterman isbn 0 316 53750 0
from “Counselling Parents of Hearing Impaired Children” by David Luterman ISBN 0-316-53750-0

Stages of Grieving

things to consider
Things to Consider:
  • Coping with hearing loss is not an overnight process
  • Stages do not follow a specific order
  • Life events can throw a parent right back into the grieving process
when do parents grieve
When do parents grieve?
  • At diagnosis
  • At school entry
  • Transition to high school
  • Transition to post-secondary education or workplace
  • Each time they are confronted with the differences between their child and same age peers
some insights on grieving
Some Insights on Grieving
  • You cannot shorten the process of grieving
  • You cannot take the pain away
  • You really don’t know what it is like….but you can show interest and empathy
  • You cannot “fix” this
  • Parents need to go through this
  • Confine parents’ concerns to the child and education issues
  • Recognize that you are not a counsellor
  • Refer parents to other professionals for other issues
  • Part of your role is to encourage parents’ confidence in the school system
  • Know your limits
communicating your role
Communicating Your Role
  • Be clear about your role
  • Be able to articulate it to parents
  • Be able to describe the roles of the classroom teacher, the SERT, the interpreter and educational assistants
  • Encourage parents to discuss their concerns with the appropriate people in the school
maintaining boundaries
Maintaining Boundaries
  • Let parents know how and when to get in touch with you.
  • Do not be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week…no other teacher is!
  • Find the balance between formal/authoritative and informal/overly friendly
communicating with parents
Communicating With Parents
  • Adjust your language level to meet the needs of the parents
    • Keep it simple
    • Leave out the “eduspeak”
  • Communicate with parents in a form they prefer
    • Phone
    • Short notes
    • In person
meetings with parents
Meetings With Parents
  • Effective communication is essential to meet the child’s needs
  • When parents react with anger or blame don’t take it personally
  • Respect cultural differences, backgrounds and economic levels
  • Adjust your dress and manner to make parents comfortable
  • Set a time limit and agenda prior to the meeting
  • Focus on the child
  • Ask if there’s anything the parent wanted to add at the end of the meeting
the educator s goal
The Educator’s Goal
  • Your goal is to develop independence in the child and in the parent
  • Assisting parents to discover their own solutions is better than giving advice
  • Your job is to work yourself out of a job with the parents
thought for the day
Thought for the Day

This child is not your child.

This parent is not your friend.

This journey is not yours to make,

But you may walk along for a time.

Hillary Holmes