For each parent, his child is an exclusive, very special, not like the others. However, there are mothers and fathers, who would give everything for making their babies the most common. In the world, there are a great number of disabled children and a lot of kids with certain severe disabilities. Families, in which exceptional children grow up, face a number of difficulties. Fortunately, more and more families, especially in large cities, decide to raise children on their own, trying to provide them maximum opportunities for treatment and rehabilitation. Collaborating with parents and families plays a crucial role in the development and learning of exceptional children.
Some irregularities in the development of the baby such as cleft lip or Down's syndrome become known for parents after the birth. Others are not recognized for several years (autism). In any case, the reaction to the news that a child is exceptional causes a lot of stress, shock and sense of loss. When the baby is still developing in the womb, parents imagine what it will be, make plans, cherish hopes for the future of its life and capabilities. Very few people are ready for the birth of a baby that will not be able to justify these hopes. The sense of loss reflects the loss of healthy, ‘normal’ child. At the same time, they must take care of the baby - this, which they now have, and which needs their care. Family’s reaction can depend on the age, severity of the disability, and cultural view of family. Another thing is when the diagnosis turns out later, especially in the case, where the parents notice that the development of the child is not normal before the experts. Then, even the bad news can bring relief. They get rid of agony of uncertainty and make it possible to take specific actions. In this difficult time, the role of specialists is especially important. They are required to provide parents with complete information on the child's diagnosis, related constraints and opportunities for the development of the baby.
The term ‘exceptional children’ involves not only children with physical and mental health problems, difficult children, but, in addition, highly gifted and talented children, whose educational needs are also included in the circle of integrated issues of education and upbringing.
Difficulties of Raising and Learning Exceptional Children
A family with an exceptional child does not differ from any other family considerably. However, the emergence of such a child is a difficult test, in which the family needs objective information, social resources, and skilled care professionals. Physical or mental disabilities in children cause parents to pay more attention to health. There is a necessity to find alternative forms of learning. However, the key principle of working with exceptional children remains unchanged. It is an individual approach.
Heward provides a portrait of common culturally and linguistically diverse family. Many of such families are not native speakers of English. They have low income and even may live in poverty. Despite many exceptional parents have not finished school, they become “life educated”. In many cases, they are undocumented immigrants, and thus, have fear before authorities. They have different views and experiences with disability, its treatment and causes.
Having an exceptional child can negatively influence a marriage. Parents often expect great achievements from their children. This is where the problem starts even in ordinary families. When the younger generation is experiencing some setbacks, the parents are not always able to absorb this tolerantly. The news of the birth of a special child in the family is often shocking. In modern society, people with disabilities or mental disabilities, as well as a variety of psychological disorders, are considered to be inferior. Certainly, every parent would love a child, even if there are deviations in its development. However, the attitude to such a child will be different. Attention to the special children should also be special. Today, happy family with an exceptional child is an achievable reality. However, parents have to reconsider the established stereotypes in society, as well as their own position in life. People with developmental disabilities can achieve great things and live a full and happy life.
Prevailing far social relations are far from harmonious. This imperfection is manifested in the division of children on the ‘normal’ and ‘backward minority’, isolating them from each other and depriving them of the possibility of full communion. In the field of education, in particular, this disharmony is reflected in the division of the mass and special education systems. The protection of the interests of exceptional children can be reached through an integrated training and education of the narrow framework of special education and uniting the efforts of teachers, doctors, psychologists and families.
Role of Parents and Families
Educational effectiveness increases when families and parents become involved. A great role is played by the work with parents, which includes family education and improvement of medical, psychological and pedagogical culture of parents and their active participation in the rehabilitation and integration of the educational process. In both NCLB and IDEA, the involvement of parents is considered a key component to children’s academic achievements.
The concept of co-education of children with a variety of educational opportunities involves the systematic inclusion of parents, siblings and other family members as active participants in all development activities, which is based on the idea of the need for the development of children in vivo, that is in the family. Families and parents are significant and natural allies to the educators.
It is well known that the formation of higher mental activity of the child takes place in the course of its cultural and historical development. To a great extent, features of social development of the child are determined by the most important socio-pedagogical institute - the family. Families can assist in providing extra skill practice and teaching children particular skills in the community and at home. This determines the need to attract parents to participate in correctional and developmental work.
Parents know specific aspects of the development of their children much better than others.Together with parents, the important educational tasks are performed by other children in the family. The relations between brothers and sisters brought up such qualities as attention to each other, tolerance and ability to cooperate. In addition, in vivo, children learn the partnership and self-affirmation. However, these educational processes are possible only in case of the appropriate training of older children to the appearance of the newborn, as well as uniform distribution of attention and care to all children, preventing the appearance of envy, jealousy and competition between older and younger children in the family. Parents should have the greatest interest in their children learning.
Exceptional parent has to play a number of roles: caregiver, provider, teacher, and counselor. Additional needs of exceptional children often cause stress. Moreover, they can form a financial burden. A need for more teaching in acquiring skills makes parent a teacher. In addition, parents have to help a child to cope with its disability and manage behavior. The parent also has to be an advocate to protect child’s dignity and advocate for educational opportunities and services.
Heward presents the resilience model that is based on following principles. Family members, in particular parents, are the source of knowledge about children, their needs and strengths. The resilience of parents cannot be immediately appreciable, but has to be supported. Family is engaged in an adjustment process, which may be facilitated by caring professionals. The resilience model consists of five stages: identification of disability, self-education, reflection about the self and family, advocacy and empowerment, appreciation and enlightenment.
Working with Parents
Parents play a crucial role in a child's life, and they bear the primary responsibility for its development. A necessary part of the whole pedagogical correction system should be active involvement of the family. Thus, the task of specialists consists in teaching parents the methods and techniques of rehabilitative training with the child, helping them choose the optimal direction of child’s development. The significant role in the work with parents is played by a factor of behaviors of loved ones and the situation factor, involving spatial and temporal structure of the medium surrounding the child. These two areas can be changed if necessary in the course of collaboration between specialists and parents. As part of the rehabilitation concept, two forms of attracting parents to developmental activities are distinguished. On the one hand, parents receive correctional programs and are trained the relevant techniques and their subsequent self-administration at home. Supervision is carried out by specialists in the form of interviews and consultations, during which parents receive guidance on the course of therapy. It should be emphasized that these parent program are aimed not only at developing special techniques, but primarily on the child's social integration.
The second form of involvement of parents is related to the behavior of the parents that can cause secondary violations and problems in child development. In such situations, the purpose of consultation becomes a change of behavior and attitude of parents. In particular, group parent training method enables the exchange of experiences to parents, who are in similar situations. Direct inclusion of parents in the integration process, which implies the implementation of a specially developed plan, occurs when neutralized the following problems: violation of interactions between parent and child, negative perception of the child, emotional overload of parents with children in the family.
One of the effective means of academic success is engaging families in children’s education. Children with exceptional needs require parental involvement in a greater extent than their peers. Exceptional children and their parents face a number of challenges. Therefore, there is a necessity to organize collaboration between parents and specialists. Families play various supporting roles in educating their children. There are different methods of working with parents of exceptional children. Both group and individual forms of work are applied to the work with such parents. Certainly, when parents and educators collaborate as partners, it increases the possibility of successful learning experience and positive social development of exceptional children.