Collaborating with Families from Mexico: Recommendations for Teachers of Children with Disabilities in North America

By Tim Hobbs and Vanessa Silla.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Jeanette is a special educator in a mid-sized North American city. She is a recent graduate and has just completed her first year of teaching. Her professional skills were assessed throughout this year and, in every case, were rated as very good or excellent. She is a highly respected teacher who strives to insure that her students are educated in a manner consistent with the best-practices of her profession
Recently Jeanette has been asked to prepare IEP documents for a student from Mexico who is a member of a small, rapidly growing, Mexican-American community in her city. She has learned, from his parents and other family members, that he has had previous special education assessment and instruction in Mexico. She is not certain what this entailed and cannot obtain documents confirming or describing these services. During key meetings, his parents appear distant and non-committal. They spontaneously comment on subjects she considers deeply personal such as religion and avoid questions regarding family interactions. When asked to sign Individual Education Plan (IEP) documents, they postpone or defer decisions to family members who are not present. They have invited Spanish-speaking non-family members to confidential meetings typically reserved for parents. She is unsure if they fully understand their role as decision makers regarding educational options for their child. Her attempts to share information regarding parental rights and responsibilities are met with polite distance. During one recent meeting, they employed a single Spanish word that the interpreter variously translated as “mainstreaming”, “special education” and “inclusion”. Jeanette is uncertain if these terms are culturally or linguistically equivalent.
Jeanette is convinced that these communication problems reflect cultural and familial differences that will not be easily bridged. She wants to develop a successful special education program for her new student but, to achieve this she needs a productive exchange of information with his parents. Her prior cross-cultural experience is limited to a high school trip to Ireland, spring break in Key West, and various “multicultural” workshops. None of these experiences has prepared her for her current challenge. She feels under-prepared and professionally inadequate and is uncertain about how to proceed.

Keywords: Mexico, Immigration, Special Education

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 15, Issue 5, pp.159-166. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 548.959KB).

Dr. Tim Hobbs

Professor, Department of Curriculum and Teaching, Troy University, Troy, USA

I currently teach and prepare special and collaborative educators at Troy University in Alabama USA and have previously taught children with disabilities in classrooms, schools and residential centers for many years. I have a have an ongoing interest in international challenges associated with educating children with disabilities and am pleased to collaborate with others with similar interests.

Dr. Vanessa Silla

Professor, Education Department, University of Scranton, Scranton, USA

I am a faculty member engaged in teacher preparation, research and service in Scranton Pennsylvania USA. I have a particular interest in education of children with autism and a longstanding commitment to best-practice teacher education. I am currently engaged in reserch regarding international issues and teacher preparation and welcome related partnerships and collaboration. Vannessa Silla.


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