Parent Involvement: A Practical Guide for Collaboration and Teamwork for Students With Disabilities, by George Taylor. Baltimore: Thomas, 2000.
Parental Involvement is chock full of practical ideas and guidelines for professionals to help them effectively collaborate with parents of children and adolescents with developmental disabilities and other special needs. Taylor has done an admirable job amassing a wealth of information that teachers, therapists, counselors, and other professionals will find usable in their day-to-day work with parents.
The book includes 12 chapters and 8 appendices that cover information on a variety of topics relevant to understanding and promoting parent involvement in their children's preschool and school programs. The various chapters can be conveniently organized into three sections or chapter groupings. Chapters 1 and 2 provide a historical overview of parent involvement in the schools; changing patterns and trends in perceptions about parents of children with disabilities; and a prosocial, positive framework for conceptualizing and operationalizing the focus or targets of strengthening parenting capacity. The latter is so important a topic that I devote a separate discussion to it later in this review.
Chapter 3 is the only chapter in which Taylor takes a traditional, more typical approach to framing parental reactions to the birth and rearing of a child with a disability. He covers the emotional reactions of rearing such a child, parent and family member reactions and adaptability, and the types of possible parental reactions to their child with a disability in particular and the phenomena of disability more generally. This chapter, more than any other, seems out of place and has the potential of undermining the more positive description of parenting functioning advanced in chapter 2. (See later discussion.)
The heart of the book is chapters 4 through 11. Readers are provided with numerous methods and strategies for working with parents of children who have disabilities. These approaches should prove useful to professionals from a variety of disciplines, especially those with little or no training or experience in partnering with parents. The various chapters cover procedures for sharing information with parents, including strategies for reporting student progress, parent/professional and family/school relationships, ideas for building and strengthening supportive interchanges, the influences of federal legislation (e.g., Individuals With Disabilities Education Act), and recommended practices (e.g., placement, inclusion, related services) on parental and school decisions, methods and techniques for counseling parents, and cultural awareness and competence. The book concludes with a summary of key parental involvement strategies that hold promise for significantly improving parent/school collaboration and the appendices, which are a useful guide for obtaining more in- depth information about persons with disabilities, with a focus on the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.
The importance and value of the book is, perhaps, best understood in the context of how parents, and parent-functioning and reaction, are perceived by those charged with responsibility for supporting and strengthening families. The extent to which professionals view parent functioning either positively or negatively, and act on their beliefs, most certainly will influence their interactions with parents. Historically, the belief that parents only or predominately experienced negative reaction to the birth and rearing of a child with a disability dominated the ways in which professionals treated them. We now know that such a perspective is inaccurate (see, e.g., Dunst, Humphries, & Trivette, 2002; Hastings, Allen, McDermott, & Still, 2002; Helff & Glidden, 1998). We also know that professionals' views, in general, have become more positive but not necessarily less negative. The readers' need to know this will influence how they frame the context of Parental Involvement.
Taylor provides the building blocks for shaping a shift in professionals' thinking about parents (chapter 2) but may have diminished this effort by following a prosocial perspective with a more traditional deficit-based view of parent and family reaction (chapter 3). Astute readers may well recognize this two-pronged emphasis and place the remainder of the book in a better perspective. Novice readers will be unlikely to make such a distinction, and they may fall into the trap of assuming a more deficit approach to working with families. The major shortcoming and weakness of this volume is Taylor's failure to make explicit a more balanced perspective of parental reaction and adaptation. Readers should be aware of the inclination to adopt a deficit perspective of parent reaction and strive to assume a more positive, prosocial frame, as I believe Taylor intended.
Notwithstanding the one major problem I have noted, Taylor has done a commendable job of coalescing theory, research, and practice as well as drawing implications that readers should find helpful in their work with parents. Parent Involvement would be a valuable addition to professionals' arsenal of methods and strategies for effectively building stronger family/school relations.