Guest Author - Vicki McCarthy
Should parents be excluded from any meetings for their child who has special needs?
I recently had a phone call from a parent who has a child with special needs. She was both angry and upset as she had been excluded from a meeting that was being held amongst the professionals involved in her childs education.
By not being allowed to attend the meeting she felt that she had “lost her voice” and her rights as a parent. Her other problem was that she had not been informed the meeting was taking place and found out through an unrelated conversation with a teacher at the school.
Her desire to be there was fuelled by her need to feel included in his education plan. She also felt that both she and her child were misunderstood and that teachers and other professionals did not fully embrace her childs diagnosis – that he was seen as having behavioural problems rather than having underlying additional support needs.
Parenting a child with special needs can bring with it a sense of fear and powerlessness. As parents we are told that we know our children better than anyone. Therefore it would make sense that being excluded from an educational meeting about your child can result in frustration, a feeling of being unheard and that your views don’t matter.
However, we need to look at this from both perspectives.
Professional meetings can sometimes take place in order for availability of resources and finances to be looked at and agreed upon. There may need to be discussions amongst professionals regarding who is best placed or qualified to carry out certain tasks. It may also be an opportunity for any difficulties to be discussed that a professional may be having in relation to their role.
Therefore it could be argued that “professional only” meetings are required. Thus parents can remain confident with the role that each professional person plays and that they are not burdened by any professional difficulties, constraints or conflicts that are not directly related to the care of their child.
Collaboration is key to ensuring the best results for the child, parent, educators and anyone else involved in a childs care. Without open and honest lines of communication between all parties we are always going to have difficulties.
Most parents will want to be involved in meetings that are about their child. Perhaps explanation to parents about what meetings are taking place and why, will help them better understand the relevance of their attending or not.