I am excited to share my findings of my latest research study: The Importance of Family-Professional Partnership in Times of Uncertainty. A study of families with children who are deafblind during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This past year I was part of a team of researchers at the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) conducting research on school and district response to COVID. In the spring, I interviewed parents who were also educators about their experiences and learned that I was not alone in feeling stretched in so many different directions. I then began talking with special education parents about their experiences, which gave me the idea for this study. Being a researcher with a special interest in collaboration within IEP teams, I sought to learn more about parent experiences working with their child's IEP teams during times of great stress and uncertainty. As a special education parent myself, I know firsthand the impacts that stress and uncertainty can have on lives, regardless of whether there is a pandemic. Knowing this, I wondered what others could learn from families of children with disabilities - about parent engagement, relationships, and collaboration. This is why I launched this research study.
As part of my work at the Center on Reinventing Public Education this past spring and fall, it worried me to see very little mention of special education in spring and fall. I hoped that I just was not seeing the communications because they were not publicly available. But, being a special education parent, I know that often special education feels like an afterthought, and given all the conflicting priorities in spring, summer, and fall, I was worried about our kids. This spring and fall, I saw glimpses of hope: some schools that were prioritizing family engagement, were individualized in their approach. In the field of deafblindness, I was seeing strands of innovation and how the deaflbind field came together to serve our students virtually. As a field, we worked hard to overcome the challenges with accessibility, and more. There remain challenges, as I share in this research brief, but we have much to learn from this time.
Lanya (Lane) McKittrick is the Chair of the Board of the Usher Syndrome Coalition, founder of the Hear See Hope Foundation, and deafblind education researcher and founder of Lane of Inquiry. Lane received her PhD in Special Education at the University of Northern Colorado. Her research, advocacy and family support work are rooted in her personal experience as a mom to four sons, including two who have Usher Syndrome, the leading genetic cause of deafblindness.