There management of pupils with disabilities within the school presents major problems both in the management of teaching and in school-family relationship. Nonetheless, in recent years the progress of the institutions has been really important and the studies developed by pedagogists, sociologists and disability experts have helped teachers in this difficult path.
Model Family Centered Cared
Among the most accredited and followed theories we mention the Family Centered Care developed by Rosembaum in 2004. It is a study that has its origins in United States and in Canada already in 60’s and is based on some cardinal principles that find their source in the centrality of the family unit, recognized as the engine that gives constant strength to the minor. This means that the family is placed at the center, while the school, as well as the support services, help and support it without ever replacing it. In a framework of this type, it is the family that must be addressed well, educated and prepared to develop the right skills to deal with the critical issues of the child first and then of the adult with disabilities. This support work by the institutions must be carried out in utmost respect beliefs, values, culture and religion of each nucleus, placing themselves in a non-judgmental attitude but aimed at building relationships of trust.
The cardinal principles of the Family Centered Care
According to FCC method, one of the key principles to be respected is flexibility. The school, in this direction, must recognize the uniqueness and diversity of each family unit without prejudice and without wanting to apply an exclusive approach, but adapting to the reality that comes before them from time to time. We must not forget, in fact, that school represents a breath of fresh air for children with disabilities, a way to get to know different realities than the restricted one of mum and dad and the teacher who takes care of it becomes his alternative world. Great importance also assumes the sharing of information between school and family regarding the neurological and clinical situation of the pupil. Without a relationship of trust it is difficult to pave the way for a peaceful conversation, and without knowing the psycho-physical health of the child it becomes impossible to help him in the right way. These points favor a process of reacquiring decision-making power over the child, which allows family members to make the right decisions for him, to be the primary support without having to delegate to third parties. The whole process described above can be defined empowerment, that is the path to help families acquire the right skills for raising children with disabilities, taking care of it with awareness. From this point of view, the right to family self-determination gives it back its authority and the right place in society. But to achieve this goal, it is necessary to become aware of one’s own educational abilities, of the help that can be given to the school which thus becomes a support and a driving force for growth for the young person.
How should the teacher relate to the disabled pupil’s relatives
According to a study carried out in Italy by some associations dealing with disabilities, the relationship between teachers and parents of disabled pupils is more critical than the norm. Often, in fact, teachers are faced with a parent who has not yet accepted the disability or that he is following a path of acceptance that puts him in crisis with each new difficulty that arises. In other cases, the support teacher is considered as a substitute for the mother or father and maximum availability is expected from him, both in terms of office hours and time to devote. Yet, despite the obvious criticalities of the individual situation, the support teacher has the same rights and duties as other colleagues: schedules to welcome parents, program to be carried out despite time limits and the possibility of being absent when there are personal problems. Precisely for this reason, the teacher’s way of behaving towards parents should follow precise patterns, yes, founded on openness, trust, respect and sharing but in any case limited to the role of “support” and never seen as a substitute for parenthood.
In this direction, the rules to follow must be:
- empathy: the teacher must listen to the other empathically, that is, placing himself in the same situation as him, catching not only the words expressed, but also the non-verbal signals. The scientific training of a teacher, although valid and thorough, must never ignore the human relationship, which is the basis of every relationship;
- active listening: in communicating their difficulties, parents must feel that they are facing a person who does not judge and who questions himself when difficulties arise. Active listening, therefore, means creating a space for openness, sharing and reflection;
- educational co-responsibility as a basis for the growth of the pupil with disabilities: in various documents the MIUR proposes to teachers to make it clear, during ordinary or extraordinary interviews, that one is needed close collaboration between school and family to encourage the growth of the boy. Let’s do some example: By conducting interviews with some support teachers who have been doing this work for many years, we got a lot of food for thought. In one of the cases described, for example, co-responsibility means that while the teacher deals with the didactic part of the pupil, even with very serious pathologies, the mom is committed to facilitating her son’s logistics by requesting the assembly of an access ramp to school managers, also using a lawyer. In another case, emblematic of the issue dealt with here, a mother told us that she asked the school for the presence of a person able to change her child’s diaper to allow him to extend school hours beyond 3 hours. The teacher explained that she did not have the competence for this role and so the parents turned to the school administrators who took steps to identify the necessary resources. Co-responsibilitytherefore, it means not leaving everything in the hands of the teacher and not expecting it to become one longa manus of parents, but collaborate with a view to listening and opennessunderstand the limits of each one’s competences and let each one perform his role well;
- respect of timetables: the major problems that many teachers have revealed to us in managing the relationship with the parents of pupils with disabilities is the request for availability at any time of the day. It is good to clarify that the support teacher has the same rights and duties as the other teachers in the class, so much so that the law provides that he is assigned to the class and not to the individual pupil. In light of what has been said, the teacher must clarify the issue already at the first meeting, indicating to parents the availability of days and times for the meetings.
Sharing the responsibilities to support in the right way
The idea of the Family Centered Care has been very successful thanks to his revolutionary interpretation of communication in case of disability: in this way the boy with ascertained physical and neurological difficulties is urged to develop alternative forms of communication, that respond to his desire to relate. This is why there is a need for constant training of support teachers and a continuous exchange of information both with parents and with specialists who care for the child. The most difficult moment is undoubtedly that of entering primary school. It deals with the beginning of a new adventure, the daily encounter with peers and the effort to relate to them even if in a fragmented way. It represents the real entry into society, a moment in which space is given to the knowledge of new materials, stories and explanations that stimulate and allow progress. For this reason it is necessary that i children with disabilities have acquired and automated basic learning skills such as reading, reasoning and concentrating. Only in this way can the task of you teachers be carried out adequately, facing one truly inclusive teaching which begins with the integration of the pupil with disabilities and culminates in the total inclusion within the class, in a collaborative and participatory environment.