By Kyle Huskins, Guest Contributor
People who are differently abled are in our society and they are in our school systems. These are people and children that are often forgotten, hidden, and are interacted with from an approach of deficit thinking. Culturally being “disabled” can take on its own connotations in varying cultures. In regards to education and people who are differently abled, we as educators have to be aware that different cultures have different ideologies regarding disability and those children may demonstrate different skill sets in different settings. An article by Lake and Billingsley (2000) tries to understand the factors that lead to the escalation of conflict between schools and families in order to craft appropriate response strategies. This study specifically focuses on parents of children who are differently abled and their conflicts with schools trying to attain the best education for their child.
One of the participants in the Lake and Billingsley (2000) study, stated that we have to be aware and that all stories of ability are valid and not just the ones that we witness, either as parents or as educators. We as educators and future leaders should problematize the social and educational construction of disability because some educators believe that the school’s view of disability reflects an objective, or at least, a universal truth (Harry & Kalyanpur, 1994). Not everyone shares the dominant hegemonic view of disability as the mainstream society does and if we wish to provide equitable education to all children and families, we have to be sensitive to that fact.
What parents are stating in that study is that they wish that the educators would be more collaborative with them and they wish for the educators to treat their child as a human. That involves letting the child make decisions about their life and seeing the child as an individual. Parents reported in the Lake & Billingsley study (2000) that one of the main aspects of the parent teacher relationship that causes conflict was that parents reported that schools focused too often on a child’s weaknesses and they did not seem to take into account what the whole child is like. I think some educators do not let some of the children or the parents participate because they view both participants from the deficit model and therefore they do not feel like their input is needed. The best way to limit conflict is to view everyone from an asset based lens. Every family will not have the same level of institutional knowledge about disability services or the school system but families still should be able to voice their opinions, their concerns, and their hopes for their child’s future.
Harry, B., & Kalyanpur, M. (1994). Cultural underpinnings of special education: Implications for professional interactions with culturally diverse families. Disability & Society, 9, 145-165.
Lake, J. F., & Billingsley, B. (2000). An analysis of factors that contribute to parent-school conflict in special education. Remedial and Special Education, 4, 240-251.
Kyle Huskins is an Educational Leadership Master of Arts student in the IU School of Education at IUPUI.