In order to ensure that the therapy a child receives at school is effective, the needs of both the child and the parent must be considered. When providing therapeutic supports, it is crucial that all stakeholders have a shared level of respect and trust and that a foundation of transparent communication is built to ensure the best possible outcome for children with special education needs.24 Dec 2022
Providing Therapeutic Supports for Children in Schools: Are We Addressing Parental Needs Too?
May 3, 2022
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Parental Needs During School-Based Therapy
Murphy and Risser (Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine) acknowledge that parental/guardian engagement in therapeutic service for children with disabilities could optimize the delivery of those therapeutic services. Therefore, “this study examines what needs parents identify as important when engaging with school based therapies and how well these needs are being met.”
As services and providers can vary across the U.S., the authors only recruited a small number of participants (initially 47) living in the state of Illinois. Moreover, the authors chose “to recruit parents of children with Individual Education Programs (IEPs), as opposed to parents of children with disabilities, to ensure that the children in question were receiving formal special education services.” All parents completed three questionnaires which provided the data for this study. The questionnaires provided are as follows: Child Demographics Measure, Needs of Parents Questionnaire, and Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire.
Questionnaire Results: Unmet Needs and Key Principles
The data revealed that parents perceived their needs related to their child’s school-based therapy as important but largely unmet. This seems particularly true for families of color. The authors highlight that “while these analyses do not provide insight into the disparities faced by specific racial and ethnic groups, they provide information about potential mechanisms for disparities, and can inform policies and practices to improve equitable access to school-based therapeutic services” as reflected in the literature relating to special education and disabilities services.
Key principles which could be used to support parents are:
- “positive, respectful, and understandable communication;
- commitment to the child and the family;
- equal power in making decisions and implementing services;
- provider competence in implementing and achieving goals;
- mutual trust; and
- mutual respect.”
Furthermore, the data from the study suggests that parents whose children displayed social-emotional and behavioral difficulties felt their needs were not met. “Parents who must manage a child’s challenging behavior, lack of social skills, and social isolation might also need additional support from service providers to engage in therapies and to fully support their child.”
Although the study identifies important aspects that ought to be considered when engaging parents with their children’s therapists, it also has limitations, namely a small sample size and a lack of diversity in the demographics of participants, as this study was limited to wealthy families rather than a range of economic backgrounds. In addition, the participants were already involved and knowledgeable about their child’s needs, and thus further studies would help to investigate representatives of the general population.
Summarized Article: Murphy, A. N., & Risser, H. J. (2022). Perceived parent needs in engaging with therapeutic supports for children with disabilities in school settings: An exploratory study. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 123, 104183.
Summary by: Frankie Garbutt – Frankie believes that the MARIO Framework encourages students to become reflective, independent learners who progress at their own rate.