One of the current trends in special education is the emphasis on the collaboration between the parents or caregivers of children with special needs and the providers of special education interventions. The current study also addresses this problem; the main research question is: “Does participation of parents in early intervention programs increase the quality of the programs and enhance the children’s outcomes?” This study, thus, aims to find out whether most of the scholarly literature reports such collaboration to lead to enhanced outcomes for children with special needs.
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Because the children have only limited time to interact with special education professionals, but maintain much more contact with their parents, families, or other caregivers, it is essential to determine whether the collaboration of educators with these caregivers yields better outcomes for children, and to enable the caregivers to more effectively address the needs of their offspring.
The key terms used in this paper include the following: a) children with special needs – very young individuals who need additional aid to address various types of issues and disabilities (such as physical, mental or psychological); b) disability or impairment – a peculiarity of a person’s physical or mental condition that hinders their ability to take part in everyday activities which are considered to be “normal” for people from their society; c) special education – education aimed at addressing the needs of children with special needs.
There exists a pool of literature related to the topic of special education. It includes books (textbooks, monographs), scholarly articles, websites of organizations related to special education, etc. The problem of parents’ participation in such programs is also addressed in the literature, but new findings are reported mainly in scholarly articles. This is why scholarly, peer-reviewed articles were utilized in this study.
In this paper, after discussing the methods used in the study, as well as the techniques of data collection and data analysis, the results are exposed. The major themes found in most of the reviewed articles are described. Finally, a discussion, which contains the conclusions, implications, and recommendations for further research, is provided at the end of the paper.
The current study is based on a literature review. The main criterion for the selection of literature was that it only had to include articles reporting original research. The utilized literature consists of 10 scholarly, peer-reviewed articles. The articles related to the themes of a) children with special needs, b) early special education interventions, c) the children’s families, and d) the collaboration between parents or children’s caregivers and special education professionals, were utilized. Most articles were published between 2005 and 2016, but two articles were published earlier (in 1995 and 1999).
The literature for this study was accessed via electronic means. The articles were found in such databases and facilities as the WSU Library, EBSCOHost, ERIC, ProQuest, and so on. The search words included such units as family, parent, early intervention, special education, special needs, disability, collaboration, etc. The articles were downloaded in the PDF format.
The articles were read by the researcher and analyzed to find the common themes. Three main themes were found to be mentioned in most of the articles. These themes were related to a) the importance of the family and the collaboration between special education professionals; b) the skills and qualities of education specialist and their professional philosophy; c) the administrative issues related to special education. Subtopics of these themes were also found. After that, the articles were once again read, and the problems related to the named themes with the respective subtopics were found and described in the current study.
Collaboration Between Parents and Special Education Intervention Providers, and the Importance of the Family for the Child’s Development
Most of the utilized articles touch upon the topic of collaboration between parents of young children and special education providers, and highlight the importance of the proper family environment. Two major topics present in the most of the studies are the role of the family and the utilization of the parents’ potential to address the needs of their children, as well as the promotion of collaboration between parents and educators. A minor topic addressed by a number of articles is the parents’ psychological problems such as stress.
Role of the family, and tapping into the parents’ potential
Family plays a crucial role in the child’s development. For instance, Brown, Bakar, Rickards, and Griffin (2006) report that the high level of family functioning as a group might be correlated with better outcomes for children with hearing impairments. The study carried out by Malekpour, Aghababaei, and Hadi (2014) revealed that a family-child based intervention yields better outcomes for kids with disabilities who show symptoms of ADHD than the interventions aimed only at children or only at parents; the family-child based intervention allows for building better relationships between parents and children, which leads to a higher chance “for parents to intervene in their children’s behavioral problems” (p. 4).
Marshall, Kirby, and Gorski (2016) show that higher parent involvement in their children’s life (for instance, reading to the child or taking them on outing) is associated with more frequent parents’ reporting various concerns regarding their kids’ development, and therefore, positively affects the chance for earlier detection of disabilities. Finally, Ziviani, Darlington, Feeney, Rodger, and Watter (2014) also highlight the crucial role that the parents’ ability to handle the needs of their kids plays in the children’s development, and demonstrate that it is important that specialists provide the families of children with proper support so that the caregivers could more efficaciously address the needs of the kids.
Dinnebeil, Hale, and Rule (1999) investigated the practices that are parts of early intervention programs to find out which of them may positively or negatively affect the collaboration between parents and educators. The essential role of family-centered philosophy, of good communication skills of service providers, and of perceiving the family as members of the early intervention team was demonstrated in the study.
Minke and Scott (1995) stress the importance of collaboration between early special intervention professionals and the parents of children, highlighting the need for adopting the family-centered approach and for the development of proper parent-professional relationship; however, it is also emphasized that specialists sometimes find that parents may lack the skills for full participation in intervention programs, which corroborates the need to provide parents with the information that is necessary to properly address their children’s issues.
Summers, Hoffman, Marquis, Turnbull, and Poston (2005) investigated the relationships between parents and the educators, once again stressing the importance of professionals and parents’ working together to handle the children’s needs.
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Lowell, Carter, Godoy, Paulicin, and Briggs-Gowan (2011) in their research of Child FIRST, or “Child and Family Interagency, Resource, Support, and Training” (p. 193) parent-child intervention, found out that its implementation leads to reduced stress among mothers and to better psychological outcomes for young children. In addition, the research by Reuben, Shaw, Brennan, and Dishion (2015) shows that an intervention aimed at reducing the mothers’ stress symptoms also helps handle children’s emotional problems.
Early Intervention Providers’ Skills, Qualities, and Philosophy
Some other major themes that can be found in the analyzed articles is the skills and qualities of the educators. A minor theme related to this is the adoption of the family-centered philosophy by specialists.
The study by Brown et al. (2006) reports that utilizing the family-centered philosophy, in which the stress is made on creating the most favorable environment for the child and guiding the family towards providing such an environment, requires employing not only the traditional skills of the teacher but also such skills as timely and exact provision of information, nurturing confidence and competence in parents, defining the nature of the existing problems, assisting with creating a strategy for child care, etc. Minke and Scott (1995) stress the importance of creating “warm, trusting relationships with families” (p. 336), which may require the professionals “to interact with families in ways that may be unfamiliar” (p. 336).
Therefore, it is clear that the specialists need to be prepared to engage in interactions with the children’s parents or caregivers to build such relationships. Dinnebeil et al. (1999) show that collaboration between parents and special education professionals is influenced by the skills of these specialists at establishing good and efficacious communication, as well as by their adoption of family-centered approaches and philosophies.
Professional and personal qualities
Summers et al. (2005) studied the satisfaction of families with the quality of their partnership with the specialists serving their children. A number of professional and personal qualities were evaluated by the parents – respondents of the study (Summers et al., 2005, p. 53); the use of such assessments also demonstrates the fact that such qualities of the specialists are considered to be essential. Ziviani et al. (2014) highlight that parents perceive the personal communication with special education professionals as paramount; the implication of this is that the specialists must show good ethos and demonstrate high professional and personal qualities while working with children and their families.
The importance of adopting the family-centered philosophy is emphasized in many articles, for instance, in Brown et al. (2006), and Dinnebeil et al. (1999), which has already been mentioned.
Administrative Issues Pertaining to Special Education
Another theme that was touched upon in many analyzed articles is related to the administrative issues. Administrative policies, as well as financial and availability problems, are two major topics here; legal issues are also mentioned in some articles.
Dinnebeil et al. (1999) show that for the wide adoption and implementation of family-focused approach, as well as for the promotion of parent involvement in the education of their children, the professional environment in which collaborative activities are valued and rewarded is of paramount importance; such environment, in turn, is created, among other factors, by the implementation of certain “administrative policies and practices” (p. 231).
Lowell et al. (2011), having reported the beneficent outcomes of the employment of Child FIRST parent-child intervention, highlight that it is paramount to implement certain governmental policies and practices to make possible the use of this intervention for the families that might require it. In particular, the largest challenge for the utilization of this intervention is funding, even despite the fact that Child FIRST requires relatively low costs to be implemented. Summers et al. (2005) measured the satisfaction of parents with the personnel who provided special education for their children; it was found out that “parents of children ages 6 to 12 years in special education in elementary school programs were least satisfied” (p. 54).
It is apparent that these findings have implications for administrative issues pertaining to the special education in elementary schools; the quality of special programs in these needs to be addressed, for it might be possible to enhance it administratively.
Financial and availability issues
The lack of funding reported by Lowell et al. (2011) has already been mentioned. Marshall et al. (2016) state that parents often have concerns pertaining to the development of their children, but that children frequently are not enrolled in public intervention services or therapy. It is stressed that, among issues that have an adverse influence on the ability of families to access such services, the cost of these services and the dearth of insurance coverage are mentioned in the research literature.
Ziviani et al. (2014) looked for particular problems related to the access to early intervention services for families whose children have physical impairments. In particular, it is known that high-quality relationships between the child’s caregivers and the professionals are paramount; therefore, once the relationship is established, it is better if the family is served by the same specialist in the future. Thus, the existing high rates of staff turnover among special education professionals (which may be due to inadequate funding) have an adverse effect, for families are forced to establish relationships with new educators over and over. Another important issue is the availability of special education services in general, as well as the dearth of facilities and equipment such as wheelchairs and continence aids (Ziviani et al., 2014).
Chen and Mickelson (2015) report that the state licensure requirements for special education professionals are inconsistent across the U.S. This dictates the need for enhancements in balance and consistency of these requirements.
To sum up, it should be stressed that most of the analyzed studies imply or openly emphasize the beneficent effect of the parents’ participation in the education of their children, in particular, children with hearing impairments. This is why it is recommended for professionals to collaborate with parents, to help them utilize their potential in addressing the children’s needs, and to provide them with the knowledge and information which is necessary for the efficacious children upbringing that the parents may be struggling to locate or not have the access to.
To effectively do so, the specialists ought to possess certain skills and personal qualities, and to adopt the family-centered philosophy, which is aimed at creating the family environment that would be most beneficent for the child. There also exist a number of administrative issues addressing which may positively affect the quality of special education; for instance, it is recommended to adopt a policy aimed at promoting the family-centered approach, to supply better funding of special education services, and to unify the standards pertaining to special education across the nation.
Subsequent studies may be aimed at the further exploration of the issues related to the participation of parents in the education of their children with special needs, in particular, with hearing impairments. For instance, the development of educational programs for parents helping them to address the needs of their offspring, the testing of these programs, and the availability of them free of charge might prove useful in enhancing the children outcomes. In addition, the focus on specialist-parent collaboration and the skills necessary for it should be made in education programs for special education professionals.
Brown, P. M., Bakar, Z. A., Rickards, F. W., & Griffin, P. (2006). Family functioning, early intervention support, and spoken language and placement outcomes for children with profound hearing loss. Deafness and Education International, 8(4), 207-226. Web.
Chen, C.-I., & Mickelson, A. M. (2015). State licensure/certification requirements for personnel serving infants and young children with special needs and their families. Infants & Young Children, 28(4), 294-307. Web.
Dinnebeil, L. A., Hale, L., & Rule, S. (1999). Early intervention program practices that support collaboration. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 19(4), 225-235.
Lowell, D. I., Carter, A. S., Godoy, L., Paulicin, B., & Briggs-Gowan, M. J. (2011). A randomized controlled trial of Child FIRST: A comprehensive home-based intervention translating research into early childhood practice. Child Development, 82(1), 193-208. Web.
Malekpour, M., Aghababaei, S., & Hadi, S. (2014). Effectiveness of family, child, and family-child based intervention on ADHD symptoms of students with disabilities. International Journal of Special Education, 29(2), 1-6.
Marshall, J., Kirby, R. S., & Gorski, P. A. (2016). Parent concern and enrollment in intervention services for young children with developmental delays: 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health. Exceptional Children, 82(2), 251-268. Web.
Minke, K. M., & Scott, M. M. (1995). Parent-professional relationships in early intervention: A qualitative investigation. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 15(3), 335-352. Web.
Reuben, J. D., Shaw, D. S., Brennan, L. M., & Dishion, T. J. (2015). A family-based intervention for improving children’s emotional problems through effects on maternal depressive symptoms. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 83(6), 1142-1148. Web.
Summers, J. A., Hoffman, L., Marquis, J., Turnbull, A., & Poston, D. (2005). Relationship between parent satisfaction regarding partnerships with professionals and age of child. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 25(1), 48-58. Web.
Ziviani, J., Darlington, Y., Feeney, R., Rodger, S., & Watter, P. (2014). Early intervention services of children with physical disabilities: Complexity of child and family needs. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 61, 67-75. Web.