Parent-Provider Partnership Skill: Empathy

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When talking with a parent of a child with special needs, seek first to understand the parent from the parent's point of view. Though joyful, parenting is also stressful at times. Parents of children with special needs may experience increased stress. Stress can come from:

  • Concern or grief for the child and the child's future
  • Desire that others will accept, care for and appreciate the child
  • Increased challenges to relationships among spouses, partner, siblings, and other family members
  • Financial stress from increased bills and forced time off work
  • Increased time to schedule health or special education appointments for the child
  • Extra work to assure the child's needs are met
  • Lack of time to meet responsibilities
  • Lack of individual or personal time.

Developing an appreciation of what it might be like to live with this extra stress and practicing an open-minded attitude of tolerance can contribute to effective, warm communication between provider and parent. Most parents, regardless of education, culture, or ethnicity, are motivated to do anything they can to help their children.

Some books you may find helpful are:

  • Janice Fialka's "It Matters - Lessons from My Son"
  • Janice Fialka and Karen Mikus' "Do You Hear What I Hear? Parents and Professionals Working Together for Children with Special Needs"
  • Robin Simons' "After the Tears - Parents Talk about Raising a Child with a Disability"