Author: Eleanor T. Robertson, Ph.D. Director, School Psychology, Trinity University


Many research studies point to the importance of family involvement in schools (Henderson & Berla, 1994; Olmscheid, 1999).  For example, collaborations between home and school have led to increases in student achievement, behavior improvements, better attendance, higher self-concept and more positive attitudes toward school and learning (National Association of School Psychologists, 1999). It is especially important for the family of a child with a hearing impairment to feel comfortable with the school counselor and to be informed of any work conducted with the student.  Of course, this will vary with the type of problems addressed and the age of the child.  It is likely that the student with an auditory disability is closer to family members than others of the same age since dependency not typical for peers has most likely been necessary.  This can present a number of unique challenges for the counselor. The necessity of keeping the family involved must always be balanced with the need for the child to establish a sense of independence and separateness.


Suggestions:

  • Inform the family immediately of any plans to work with the student in a counseling situation. It is helpful to have a written explanation of general guidelines you use in counseling all students. This explains the types of problems you address, the reasons you would like to keep some issues confidential, the situations about which you would immediately inform them, and your telephone number should they wish to contact you. In addition, articulate some specific goals for this student.
  •    With younger children, it is helpful to have a parent meeting before beginning any type of counseling to establish a sense of trust with the family and to gather some background information.
  •    In some counseling sessions, you may wish to include the parents with the student if the issue relates to family interactions. Even the manner in which parents respond to school problems can be of concern to the student and may need to be discussed with all present.
  •    Don’t forget siblings of the student with an auditory impairment. So much focus is placed on a student with a disability that the brothers and sisters may feel forgotten and have their own problems around this perceived neglect. If possible, meet the siblings and determine for yourself if individual counseling with them would be helpful or if a session to include all the family members is sufficient.
  • Although involving parents is important, be careful to maintain the student as your primary client. Parents of students with hearing impairments may be so accustomed to making decisions for their children that the student may not have achieved an independent sense of identity. Provide situations for students to make decisions on their own.
  • If parents contact you, be sure to let them know you will share the conversation with the student, and if necessary, invite them into your office to discuss the issue further. It is a judgment call on your part as to whether holding the session with all present would be helpful. If at all possible, include the student since it is essential that you are viewed as an advocate and do not share confidences with others. Trust is critical in any counseling situation but this is especially important with the student with a hearing impairment since so many factors in life are out of the child’s control. For this student, establishing a sense of personal empowerment is always an important goal.