Parents and Educators


Interviewing is a Two Way Street

By Marilyn Lash, M.S.W.

Lash and Associates Publishing/Training Inc.

Parents of a student with brain injury have information for schools

Parents have important information about the effects of their child’s brain injury (TBI).  Too often I hear a parent say, “But I’m just a mom….” Yet moms and dads are the most important people in a child’s life. They are critical resources for information when a student has a brain injury. Although involvement of parents is required under the law for students receiving special education, too often their involvement is limited to infrequent meetings that focus more on the paperwork of special education than a mutual discussion of the child’s needs and strategies.

It’s not always easy for parents and educators to communicate. Schedules of working parents and teachers often don’t match easily. When teachers meet after a full day of classes and parents take time off from work or arrange for childcare for other children, time to sit down together may be limited.

Head Injury InterviewYet it is the communication between educators and parents that can be so beneficial in understanding how this child is doing at home and in school. Both parties have valuable information and perspectives to exchange. But communication is often stymied if educators or parents are unsure of where to begin or what to ask. Here are two checklists to help parents and educators initially open up channels for communication. Think about how you can use these as a starting point and how to modify them for your situation.

Checklist for educators

Start by setting up a meeting…

  • before thestudent returns to school after an injury
  • when the students moves to a new grade or school or
  • if any changes in grades or serious difficulties are reported.

Step 1 Ask a parent to describe the student’s brain injury, including…

  • when the student was injured
  • how it happened
  • how serious the brain injury was
  • if the student was in a coma and, if yes, for how long
  • if there were other injuries
  • how long the student was in the hospital

Step 2 Ask a parent to describe the student.

While medical records provide a lot of detail and educational testing gives even more information, parents are with their child every day. Gathering testing and writing reports can take many weeks or months, but the teacher is in the classroom with the student every day. The educator doesn’t have the luxury of waiting to gather testing reports before teaching the student. Involving parents as early as possible in the school year can help educators know what to expect and develop strategies for the classroom. Don’t wait until there is a problem to contact parents. Gathering information from parents can help prevent problems down the road.

Ask a parent to describe how the injury has affected the student. Parent reports changes in:

  • physical abilities
  • speech and language
  • hearing
  • judgment
  • energy and fatigue
  • vision
  • behavior

Other _________________________________

Ask a parent about the child’s thinking and learning since the brain injury. Parent reports changes in:

  • attention
  • memory
  • planning
  • problem-solving
  • concentration
  • organization
  • reasoning
    Other _______________________________

Ask a parent how the injury has affected the student emotionally. Parent reports changes in:

  • confidence
  • friendships
  • social skills
  • temper and irritability
  • awareness of others
  • sexual comments or actions
    Other _____________________________

Ask a parent to describe how help is given at home. Parent reports student needs help with:

  • reminders and memory aids
  • cueing strategies
  • managing behaviors
  • reading
  • communicating
  • organization and planning
  • homework
  • making decisions
  • writing
    Other _____________________________

Ask a parent for thoughts about how the student is doing in school including…

  • areas where the student is doing well
  • strategies used by teachers that have been helpful
  • completion of homework
  • difficult subjects, classes or special areas
  • changes in grades since the injury
    Other _____________________________

Checklist for interviewing specialists

There are many situations that can lead to a request for consultation or training by a specialist in brain injury. Members of the educational team may feel that they need someone more experienced in brain injury to guide them. Parents may question the experience of school staff and ask that a consultant or specialist be involved. Negotiating this request can be quite simple or difficult. Sometimes resistance to outside specialists or consultants by the educational team is based on disappointing experiences in the past. Concerns about the expense may be raised. Both educators and parents agree that the goal of involving a specialist is to better understand and help the student. Yet not all professionals experienced in brain injury are effective in working with educators. Making this match is an important part of the process, regardless of whether the specialist is a neuropsychologist, speech and language pathologist, occupational therapist, social worker, or any other discipline.

Because many educators are unfamiliar with the consequences of brain injuries for learning, finding local experts can save a lot of trial and error. Finding the right specialist is largely a matter of asking the right questions. Children and adolescents are very different than adults. While there may be many professionals experienced with adults with brain injuries, their knowledge and skills may not necessarily be what you are looking for to work with students. Making the right match can avoid a lot of frustration, disappointment and expense.

Use the grapevine

One of the best resources for checking out specialists is other schools. Many school psychologists, case managers, social workers and special education directors have experience with consultants and are willing to provide feedback on their services. Parents also have a network of contacts with other parents, as well as professionals, and can be active partners in selecting a consultant.

Reading recommendations

Parents and Educators as PartnersParents and Educators as Partners 

By Marilyn Lash, M.S.W. and Bob Cluett

Parents and educators can work together to help the student and child with an acquired  brain injury.



Lash Blog Permission


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