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Collaboration in special education is extremely important. Collaboration’s very definition

states that it relies on multiple individuals and involves input from general education teachers,

special education teachers, families, and the student itself. When collaboration is missing from

even one of these areas, the team is not doing what is best for that student. They could be

missing key information from one area that adds a certain piece to the puzzle that is each child.

Teams are proven to me more effective than an individual. However, collaboration is so much

more than just talking with one another. It involves nonverbal cues, modes of communication,

and how often. It is an art that needs to be practiced frequently in order for one to become an

expert. Exceptional teachers must be exceptional communicators and collaborators.

The key players involved in special education collaboration are the general education

teacher, special education teacher, administrators, the child involved, physical therapist,

occupational therapist, school psychologist, speech pathologist, paraprofessionals, and the

child’s family. The general education teacher has a lens of what typical peers are doing, as well

as how the child compares to those peers. The special education teachers involved depend on the

child’s plan and if they involve a resource teacher, a speech language pathologist, and

occupational therapist, or another person in a specialized area. All personnel working with the

child should be included in the collaboration process. The administrators can offer a lens in

collaboration of ensuring different laws are being met, and an overall objective opinion of the

student. The child should be involved with collaboration, because overall, this plan is to help

them succeed. They should be made aware and asked opinions of preferences and other areas.

The family is also extremely important in the collaboration process, not only because they see

the child in a non-school environment, but because this is their child and they have the right and

responsibility to be involved in each child’s educational journey.


An open platform, positive rapport, and an overall vision ensure successful collaboration

in special education. An open platform for all gives each individual a chance to communicate

and voice opinions, because everyone’s input matters. Each person sees the child at different

times, in different environments, and with different demands placed on them, so all of these are

different pieces of the puzzle needed to make an appropriate plan for them. Positive rapport

between collaborators is needed, because collaborating should be an overall positive experience

for all. A vision for the student ensures that all collaborators keep on track and are working

towards the same goal. These are achieved by all of these individuals joining as one with the

common goal of helping this child reach their maximum potential. This is reached by scheduling

frequent meetings to collaborate, having an open platform to share, and constantly sharing new

ideas with one another.

Potential barriers to successful collaboration in special education are when the above

three criteria are not being met. When there is not an open platform to share, positive report

between collaborators, and an overall vision for the student, it creates problems for all parties in

the collaboration process. Time is another barrier in successful collaboration. As teachers, we

constantly admire the problem of us not having enough time to plan instruction together for

students. We cannot add minutes into a day, so this presents a barrier. Culture can also be a

potential barrier to successful collaboration. If one collaborator does not have the same culture or

values as another, there can be some definite miscommunications along the way. Both parties

will have to work to understand each other so this does not become a barrier. When any of these

items are missing, mistrust and lack of communication begin to form. This results in negative

energy towards different parties involved, and it does not result in doing what is best for the


One way to collaborate in special education is to share progress of the child with all

parties involved. When everyone on the child’s team is aware of progress, or lack thereof, being

made, the appropriate steps can be taken to help the child the best they can. Another way to

collaborate in special education is to share ideas with members of the child’s team. When the

team shares data and ideas for helping the student together, it helps everyone have a united front

when working with the child. An example of this is when a child has a behavior concern, having

all adults working with the child providing the same, predictable response can help change the

child’s behavior positively.

There are many important time points in a student’s education where collaboration should

occur. The first one is right at the beginning of each year, the child’s team should meet and

discuss the previous year, and how the upcoming year should look for the child. Following that,

collaboration should occur often, informally and formally. There should never be a lack of

communication between team members, whether that is in formal meetings, or informal emails,

behavior tracking sheets, or phone calls. Teachers should constantly be looking to close this gap

so that communication is always clear and concise. Formal meetings that include everyone

should occur multiple times a year, including annual IEP reviews, conferences, and other outside

scheduled times to go over the child’s progress and next steps. An end of year meeting should

also occur, mapping out what the next school year looks like for the child. All members should

be involved in this communication. Meetings are not the only way to communicate, and this

could be done by email, text messaging, phone, and skype, amongst other ways, when


Culture and power affect collaboration in special education in many ways. Culture is a

system of shared beliefs in order to understand each other and the world around them. This

means that every individual comes from a different culture and a different background, so work

must be done to understand each other’s culture to better understand them as people. When

people from different cultures collaborate, a certain level of empathy is involved to understand

where each person is coming from, their background knowledge, and their behavior. What one

individual values could be different than another. Culture affects the way you look at the world.

For example, if one individual values dependence and another values independence, their goals

will be different. That is where collaborating and communicating hold such a powerful place to

find common ground for the good of the child. Power also as an influence in collaboration. When

one person in the collaborative group sees themselves as higher or lower than another, it affects

their contribution to the group. When one is seen as more “powerful”, others are more likely to

listen to their contributions with more respect, instead of with a more analytic lens. Power has an

affect over any group an individual is involved in, including collaboration in special education.

In conclusion, collaboration in education is vital in ensuring student success. No one

individual has all of the answers. Teachers learn that students have reached their highest level of

pedagogy if they are able to teach other students what they know and take feedback. So, we have

to act like our students and be able to accept different viewpoints as well as giving others our

opinions in a productive manner. Even though there are challenges to this, it is our job to ensure

that we overcome them for the good of our students.