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Running head: SPED PHILOSOPHY

Special Education Philosophy


Jennifer Cady
University of Kansas

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Special Education Philosophy

Collaboration, in special education, should be the heart of the educational process when it
comes to meeting the specific needs of the diverse student population. Without collaboration,
communication gaps would exist, and therefore, student needs would fall to the wayside. This is
a shift from my original philosophy of education, where I once valued personal independence
from those around me and the freedom to instruct creatively on my own island. Friend and Cook
(2013) expressed this shift eloquently by stating that, In collaboration, participants know that
their strengths can be maximized, their weaknesses can be minimized, and the result will be
better for all (p. 11). Since one individual cannot possibly be an expert in every given area,
collaboration becomes essential. However, when all individuals work together for the common
goal of the students, a sense of community evolves (Friend & Cook, 2013). Given the fact that
school should be a place of belonging and community, it is critical to value and support
collaborative efforts.
Key Players
The primary key players in the collaborative process should be the parents and students.
Given the fact that parents have the most valuable insight about their children, the collaborative
process should center on their needs as a unit. With the parent(s) and student as the core, other
key players, such as the teacher, special educator, paraprofessional, school psychologist, school
social worker, administrator, occupational therapist, and physical therapist should comprise the
other collaborative members. While the aforementioned list is not exhaustive, it is a solid start to
outline the vested participants that can often times be found at the roundtable, collaborating with
the parents, on behalf of the students with special needs.

SPED PHILOSOPHY

Success Factors
There are a variety of factors that contribute to successful collaboration. First, those
involved must trust one another and actively volunteer of their time and energy to the process.
They must also feel compelled to share their ideas, in a back and forth dialogue, for the sake of
the student. This involves creating a level of respect and rapport with one another. The dialogue
has to be ongoing, as it is ever-changing, and based on student growth measures. In addition, all
members must seek to share the responsibilities, as well as take accountability for the outcomes.
When outcomes are not favorable, everyone has to be willing to revisit the process and adjust as
needed until the outcomes present themselves as favorable.
Potential Barriers
Collaborative efforts house potential barriers. For instance, scheduling meetings can be a
daunting task. Inevitably, someone will have to give in and adjust his/her schedule to make
certain meetings happen. Otherwise, if no one is willing to adjust then someone is often left out
of the collaborative loop. Another barrier to consider is overcoming disagreements and disputes
when they arise. Members of any collaborative team have to be open with one another and
forgiving of one another if the process is to evolve. Educational professionals also have to be
willing to think outside the box. This can be a challenge for many. Thinking outside of the box
can be uncomfortable for some, but necessary to find individualized methods to meet student
needs. One additional barrier can be that of power among the individuals. For instance,
paraeducators often possess a great deal of informative information about students, but are often
disregarded as unimportant members of the collaborative process. In essence, they lack the
needed power to guide change through a collaborative voice in the decision-making process.

SPED PHILOSOPHY

Ways to Collaborate
Collaboration can take place through a variety of formats, but is often times done via
email, telephone, and in-person. Typically, meetings are initiated through phone or email
correspondences. Once participants agree to a date and time a face-to-face meeting transpires.
Additional follow-up is then done through email and phone conversations, and this cycle repeats
itself during mandated legal timeframes, as well as during important transitional phases. For
instance, it would be important to ensure that collaboration took place when a child initially
entered the educational setting, during frequent data collection phases throughout the year, and
specifically before transitioning to the next educational level (i.e., middle school, high school, or
college).
Culture & Power
During the collaboration process, all vested parties should be cognizant of culture and
power among the participants, because both house the potential to impact how members interact
and view one another. For instance, if all school personnel are from a similar cultural
background, but the parents and students are from another, this might very well present itself as
an imbalance of power. An example might be a roundtable of middle class, White females,
collaborating with low socioeconomic, Black families. The professionals would have a
responsibility to understand and respect any potential differences (i.e., overrepresentation in
special education as a result of unfair qualification processes or, a lack of academic instruction
that aligns with preferred learning styles). Removing potential culture and/or power barriers,
from the get-go, is essential to effective collaboration with fair outcomes.

SPED PHILOSOPHY

Conclusion
In conclusion, effective collaboration is the vehicle that will ultimately lead students to
academic, behavioral, and social/emotional success. The process requires intentional actions
from all vested parties, but specifically the professionals, because the students are the ones being
serviced, and the parents may or may not be privy to effective collaborative aspects. No matter
the level of understanding, every member should be equally valued and respected for the
knowledge they bring to the conversation.

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Reference

Friend, M. & Cook, L. (2013). Interactions: Collaboration skills for school professionals (7th
ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.