Partnering with Parents: Protocols Make a Difference

January 23, 2011 at 7:10 pm Leave a comment

posted by Lorraine Yamin ’95, Learning Specialist at The Saul and Carole Zabar Nursery School & Staff Member at Bank Street’s Home and Community Program

When early childhood professionals approach parents with a concern about their child’s development, having a sensitive, best-practice protocol to guide the process can make a critical difference in the outcome of that conversation. While this may seem self-evident, early childhood settings often have not outlined their process in written form. Administrative staff and teachers may be adept in their observing and recording and may be skilled communicators, but they are also managing a myriad of responsibilities that draw the focus away from this important work.

Teachers and administrators may bring their observations and concerns to parents and find the conversation they initiated ends with resentment toward the professionals and a diagnosis of “denial” for the parent. While it is true that parents respond to these conversations in variety of ways, from relief that their own concerns have been voiced to dismay and confusion, there also exists a series of steps that can guide this process and bring it to a level of best practice. This guidance is critical because early childhood professionals have a limited number of opportunities to connect with a parent when they need to share concerns. Once a parent or caregiver feels that the professional does not “get” or “know” their child, a baseline level of trust has been lost and is quite difficult to recover.

At the Saul and Carole Zabar Nursery School at the JCC in Manhattan, the directors, a leadership team of experienced teachers, and two educational consultants met over the summer to carve out a written protocol to guide staff when teachers are concerned about a child. Collectively, we identified and unpacked our best practice values and procedures in order to create a system of shared practice.

We believe the vicissitudes of early childhood development bring shifts in both strengths and vulnerabilities. We know that documenting and communicating concerns requires us to articulate what can only be viewed as a child’s emerging profile. We have balanced and grounded that openness by committing to a process that helps us know exactly where we are in our shared construction with parents. Five months into the school year, we see clear benefits to having mapped this protocol out, in written form. The manner by which we now approach, partner, guide and support families with children who may have emerging developmental vulnerabilities, is one that emboldens all involved; directors, teachers, consultants and, most importantly, families and their children.

For the past 20 years Lorraine has been working with young children who have a range of special needs. She has worked in group homes, hospital- and center-based therapeutic nursery schools, mainstream preschools and Head Start. She is the Learning Specialist at The Saul and Carole Zabar Nursery School at The JCC in Manhattan and is on staff at The Bank Street Home and Community Program. Lorraine graduated from Bank Street College of Education in 1995 with a Masters degree in Early Childhood Special Education and recently completed her MSW at Hunter College School of Social Work.

Entry filed under: assessment, collaboration, dialogue, early childhood, families.

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