When I trained to be a teacher, my focus was on working with kids. I received very little training about the relationships I would forge with families. As a college student, I could never have imagined the number of nights of sleep I would lose worrying about the adults attached to the children and adult clients I serve. Yet these adults and the relationships that come with them have, for me, amplified the depth and meaning of an already fulfilling career.
Just a few weeks ago, Dr. Barry Prizant — director of Childhood Communication Services and adjunct professor at Brown University — came to speak at Morgan Autism Center’s (MAC) 13th Annual Conference. I drove him from the airport to his hotel, a little over an hour in the car. While I am usually nervous about meeting world-renowned autism experts, this time I was in fanboy mode; Dr. Barry was coming to talk about “Fostering positive parent/professional relationships.”
I studied his notes in preparation for the event and was just plain excited that this topic would be a main feature of the conference. This aspect of teaching is almost entirely (certainly in my experience) overlooked in credential programs. It seems that schools, districts and teachers alike are stymied by how to create meaningful and collaborative relationships. And yet my belief is that family and professional relationships are some of the factors that matter most in special education, and maybe in teaching in general. Dr. Barry and I discussed the essential components of strong relationships, the possible pitfalls and what we can do as professionals to help parents on their journey with their child. I enjoyed our conversation so much that I crossed over to Interstate 280 via State Route 92 hoping to keep him talking a little longer.
I have always believed that we at MAC are extremely lucky. We spend multiple years with families and our philosophy encourages teachers and families to communicate, to get to know one another and to meet and collaborate outside of formal meetings. Teachers often find themselves in the position of trusted confidante, autism guide, difficult conversation starter and family friend.
Over the course of my conversation with Dr. Barry, I found myself reflecting on the pride I feel about MAC — in particular our teachers. They understand the power of trust and work hard to gain meaningful and long-lasting trust from their family relationships. And, as should be the case with any professional conference, I was simultaneously bubbling with new ideas on how MAC can do it that little bit better.
For articles, resources or more information about Dr. Barry Prizant, visit www.Barryprizant.com