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Introduction

Individual with Disability Education Act (IDEA) was passed in 1975 and it qualified IEP for children with special education services in their learning. Years after IDEA was legalized, parents now have a chance to work together with professions in IEP school meetings in order to come up with ways of ensuring appropriate education program for the needs of the children (Monda & Fleming 65). There are however challenges in the parent-profession relation in becoming active members and participants in the design of IEP. It becomes hard for the child to obtain optimum education through IEP in case the parent has no knowledge of the child’s needs, medical conditions, interests and even their daily routines (Power & Orto 113). It has therefore becomes a necessity for the professions to narrow in the gap created in the relationship between themselves and parents. This can only be resolved through understanding of the perception of the parents on conflicts resulting from the IEP discussions before embarking on strategies to resolve them.

Challenges

Lack of satisfaction

Among the challenges met are the recurring conflicts between parents and professions during IEP planning processes. Educators argue that lack of satisfaction by a team member can result to conflicts which can be a dividing force in the implementation of the IEP program. They also say that such conflicts can be a major obstacle to parents as they do not receive professional service for their children (Boer 189).

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Conflicting views

Among other challenges met are conflicting views. During IEP meetings parents tend to have a lot views which are a major source of conflicts (Cruickshank & Johnson 235). These views arise due to the fact that most professions will administer full attention towards the child in order to render excellent services. For it to be achieved this they mainly focus on the child’s special needs and disabilities in order to accommodate their needs. On the other hand parents feel frustrated during the meetings where they receive numerous feedbacks on the child’s disability. The frustration results from them wanting their children viewed as normal children with interest and capabilities and not as those with difficulties and problems.

Avoiding meetings

In the IEP meetings the parents tend to hold opposing opinions from those of the professions as they see the program focuses mostly on the child’s disability other than the strong aspects. Professions may at times avoid meetings and this results to lack of professional assessment on the professional deficit towards the problem. Due to such conflicting views there can hardly be an agreement met on how to provide support to the child (Turnbull et al., 101). Some parents believe in having the IEP program in their homes and can as a result cause different views with the professions. Parents tend to state the burden raising children with special needs has on them of which the professions have no idea about due to the short time period professions have in helping the children learn.

Lack of consideration to the family’s situation

According to Salisbury & Dunst (46), the tiring work should be continued as a consideration to the family’s situation by the professions and therapists. The parents should not be forced to be the child’s teachers as the therapist and professions are there to help. According to the study however, it shows that parents who look most into the needs of child may affect the family as a whole (Wright, Stegelin & Hartle 67). Without consideration on the family’s condition, parents are bound to encounter challenges and will mainly place their blame on the professions for their child’s slowness in improvement and even problems that may result from home based practies.

Authority and power

Another challenge met in the relation of profession- parent is mainly power and authority (Jones, Holmes & Powell 61). Parents will most likely consider themselves as having less power and capabilities to cope with children with special needs if the professions look down on them as parents who need a lot of support and assistance just like their children (Porter & McKenzie 117).

Different values in expectations and communication styles

Another communication problem that can exist includes differing values expectations, and communication styles that is there for parents is language. This is because parents tend to feel powerless in becoming decision makers in the IEP program. Lo, 79 show those parents from different language backgrounds and cultures may feel powerless in advocating for their children’s needs due to little knowledge about schools systems and also language. Interpreters are available in some schools in order to resolve this conflict of language but it is a long way from achieving it as parents find it hard to become active members due to the time limit in translation.

This goes into affecting their evaluation and provocation of better education programs. They therefore go into accepting what the professions view as the best IEP plans due to insufficient knowledge of such programs in other countries. Use of jargons by professions may result to language barrier as many if not all of the parents do not understand what the words might mean. It may result to incompetence and a lack of confidence to question programs which professionals afford (Lynch & Hanson 179). In the long run parents might view this as a way of professions unwillingness to assist the parent and also the child (Porter & McKenzie 75).

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It happens that most IEP members do not equip themselves with the law, its interpretation and also its administrative procedures which their district has put in place for the purpose of serving their children. Problems caused by misunderstandings, misinformation and even lack of information can make disagreement s to occur where none existed. These kinds of problems can be eliminated through proper listening, accurate speaking and correcting misunderstandings as early as possible. Staff members especially in schools have the responsibility upon themselves to ensuring that they are updated on the IEP programs that are being practiced in the school districts. They also have the responsibility to ensure that parents understand the process. On the other hand, parents should ask questions if they do not understand (Jones, Holmes & Powell 89).

Respect

Lack of respect from professionals is also a critical element for parents in the increasing conflicts during IEP meetings. Parents who are from low socio-economical backgrounds often have the feeling of being disrespected by professions (Zionts et al., 87).  Stereotypes by professions towards parents are formed as they rarely inform the parents on the progress of the child. They view parents from low backgrounds as people who cannot understand their explanations and therefore have little interest in involving the parents in the child’s learning process (Harry 39). Garriott, Wandry & Snyder, (57) found out that professions usually do not appreciate any form of input by the parents during IEP planning process.

Cultural differences

Cultural differences are very important for IEP programs though it might be a result of conflicts and disagreements which will result to differing goals for the child’s educational program. Across cultures concepts such as decision making and parent-profession partnership are not valued equally (Ong-Dean 112). Rather than dismissing these kinds of cultural difference, professional team should structure their decision making to address these differences.

Recommendations

There are ways to overcome differences in the IEP program which will ensure that children with special needs are catered for and that parents also get quality services. In order to over these challenges there should be an understanding on the kind of pressure such case place on the families of children with special needs. The parents have an everyday caring burden and therefore there is little personal time and rest which is basically two major concerns in their lives. During process making in IEP professions should take into consideration the parent’s family situation.

Equal partnership

Epstein (79) showed that equal partnership between parents and professions should be worked on. The key final decision makers are mostly the parents appoint of which professions should take in to consideration. In IEP planning programs parents should be encouraged to contribute what they know about the child’s appropriate program as a way of strengthening the parent’s abilities. Professionals should not undermine the input given by parents and they should also not use deficit views towards them (Porter & McKenzie 99).  The most professional measure to use by professionals is to explain clearly about special terms in the meeting (Rodger & Ziviani 79). In this way parents will not feel incompetent or intimidated about their contributions in the IEP programs.

Proper use of interpreters

When parents are from different cultural backgrounds professionals may require that they break down the information to give the interpreters sufficient time to translate the information to those parents who might have language barriers of difficulties in understanding.

Respect

Respect should be shown towards parents through real actions in meetings. The stereotype should be done away with when interacting with parents from dysfunctional or low socio-economic families. They should however view parents as an integral part of the IEP program (Rodger & Ziviani 47).

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Comfortable environments

Comfortable meeting environments should be ensured for IEP. They can range from formal well arranged conference rooms to storage areas with small tables and folding chairs. Physical comfort should be ensured as it enables parents to fully concentrate. According to Berry & Hardman, language barriers do not necessary mean differences in linguistics or use of professional jargons. Language preferences in team culture can create barriers to active participation by parents.

Trust and collaboration

Trust and collaboration happen to be reciprocal processes thus meaning that collaboration will not develop without a measure of trust. It is difficult to have collaboration without trust as collaboration involves responsibility, sharing of resources and investment of time and energy (Mattessich & Monesy 91).

Implementation of listening skills

Listening skills should also be implemented in ensuring that proper questions are asked in order to have the right understanding. Effective listening involves listening for any emotions, listening to the right content within the message, reflecting feelings by the listener and also ensuring that the speaker has a chance to correct and confirm their perception (Schumm & Bos 71).

According to Filey, members should discover new ways of overcoming challenges they encounter and discover ways of overcoming them. Not only should professions invest time and energy in helping children with special needs but they should also find ways of improving their collaboration with the parents and narrow down the gap. In this way they will both find ways of helping the children with special needs acquire quality educations and services.

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