Keeping the Home Light Burning: Working With Parents of Problem Children

Heredity is what a man believes in until his son begins to behave like a delinquent. Presbyterian Life.

When I first started writing this chapter I entitled it “Dealing With Parents.” Dr. David Kendall, Professor of Special Education at the University of British Columbia, who teaches a course in working with parents of exceptional children, was quick to point out to me that dealing was the wrong word. It gives the impression that you know more than parents do, or have to set them straight. He suggested I use the phrase working with instead.

At first it seemed like a minor point, but after thinking about it, I realized it reflected a significant aspect of how we see perceived ourselves in relation to parents. This in turn guided how we talked to parents, and how we involved them in their child’s treatment plan. Working with means we see parents as partners, as experts in their child’s behavior, who have as much or even more to offer as we have in designing a treatment program for their child.

This chapter offers you some broad guidelines in how you can work together with parents of special needs children. It includes suggestions on communicating with parents, involving them in treatment, and providing them with additional sources of information and support.

The goal of any treatment plan should be not only to help the child, but to help parents help their child. Ultimately parents’ cooperation is the cornerstone in determining how much their children progress. Parents spend the most time with their child, they have the most interest in his welfare, and they are the people whom their child has the most trust in. Treatment of children’s problems can only be successful to the extent that parents are willing to participate in, and follow through on.