Many research studies point to the importance of family involvement in schools (Henderson & Berla, 1994; Olmscheid, 1999).  For example, collaboration between home and school has 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 vision impairment to feel comfortable with the school counselor and to be informed of any work conducted with the student.  Of course, school-family collaborations will vary with the type of problems addressed and the age of the child.  It is likely that the student with a vision disability is closer to family members than others of the same age since some dependency not typical for peers has most likely been necessary.  This intense family involvement can present a number of unique challenges for the counselor. The necessity of keeping the family informed must always be balanced with the need for the child to establish some 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 the general guidelines you use in counseling all students. This information sheet should explain 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 in order 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.
  • Don’t forget the siblings of the student with vision impairment. So much focus is placed on a student with a disability that the brothers and sisters may sometimes feel forgotten and have their own problems around this perceived neglect. If possible, meet the siblings and determine for yourself whether individual counseling with them would be helpful or whether a session to include all the family members is sufficient.
  • 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 vision 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.