Parent-Teacher Interaction in the Process of Monitoring the Psychosocial Development of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Abstract

Objectives. Contemporary inclusive education practices for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) present a series of challenges related to involving parents in the educational process. One effective tool for timely adjustments to the content and organization of the educational process for children with ASD, ensuring its individualization, is the interaction between teachers and parents during the monitoring of a child’s psychosocial development. The aim of the research presented in this article is to identify the characteristics of parent-teacher interaction in the process of monitoring the individual psychosocial development of students with ASD and to determine the conditions and methods for optimizing such interaction.

Methods. The study employed parental questionnaires based on a developed questionnaire and an expert dialogue methodology with parents. The sample consisted of nine parents of 7—8-year-old children with ASD who are enrolled in a resource classroom.

Results. have shown that in the interaction between parents and educators during the monitoring process, non-productive types predominate. These non-productive types are characterized by excessive control over the educational process, the absolute reliance on one’s own knowledge, the delegation of responsibility to educators while seeking to influence the educational process, and the demand for rapid positive changes in the child’s educational outcomes. Productive interaction, on the other hand, is characterized by openness to sharing information about the child’s unique characteristics, trust, and a shared sense of responsibility. Based on the obtained results, psychological and pedagogical conditions for involving parents in the study of the psychosocial development of children with ASD have been identified, in accordance with the monitoring stages. As a means of optimizing the interaction between parents and educators, joint monitoring practices have been proposed and tested.

Conclusions. Drawing from established approaches in corrective pedagogy and psychology, as well as the synthesis of empirical research results, this article provides a rationale for the psychological and pedagogical conditions necessary to involve parents in the study of a child’s psychosocial development with ASD. These conditions lay the foundation for meaningful and productive collaboration between parents and educators.

General Information

Keywords: inclusive education, parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), monitoring of psychosocial development, interaction between parents and teachers, productive and non-productive interaction types

Journal rubric: Research of ASD

Article type: scientific article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17759/autdd.2023210302

Received: 03.08.2023

Accepted:

For citation: Kuzmicheva T.V., Afonkina Yu.A. Parent-Teacher Interaction in the Process of Monitoring the Psychosocial Development of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autizm i narusheniya razvitiya = Autism and Developmental Disorders, 2023. Vol. 21, no. 3, pp. 18–26. DOI: 10.17759/autdd.2023210302.

Full text

Introduction

When planning and adjusting the inclusive educational process of students with disabilities, the support and active participation of all educational environment subjects are important, taking into account children’s educational needs [1]. Significant difficulties arise when including children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in the system of inclusive education [5; 12]. One of the factors influencing the overcoming of difficulties is the active interaction between parents and teachers in the individualised process of education and upbringing, which involves the construction of variable educational trajectories. However, such interaction is almost the most problematic and contradictory moment that creates barriers to the inclusion of students with ASD in the educational process.

In domestic researchers’ works, the main problems in families of children with ASD, along with the difficulties of receiving special assistance, self-realisation, and arranging employment, are identified as parenting problems due to the expressed specificity of children’s development and behaviour [9;10; 11]. In addition, parents of children with ASD, being highly active in the search for information about autism, communicating in social networks, at the same time are often critical of the opinions of specialists and distance themselves from communication with them [5]. In addition, parents’ perceptions of the developmental problems of a child with ASD are characterised by contradictions and inconsistency with the opinions of specialists. Thus, S.A. Morozov, S.S. Morozova and T.I. Morozova show that parents pay attention to speech disorders to a greater extent than specialists and significantly underestimate the manifestations of intellectual disability in children [8]. Parental errors in the education of a child with ASD are a natural consequence of the above problems [13].

The foreign scientists’ works also reflect the aspects of interaction between parents of children with ASD and teachers. The solution of pupils’ problems is associated with the effectiveness of their communication. Thus, emphasis is placed on communicative barriers, the authors consider the discussion in the parent-teacher dyad of difficulties faced by the child in the family environment and at school as a way to eliminate them. Such discussions have a positive effect on expanding adults’ appropriate behavioural repertoire [14]. In the context of this discussion, it is of interest to note that research has shown, based on parent-teacher surveys, that children with autism are less socially engaged at school than at home [15]. The solution to this problem could be the subject of adult interaction and create conditions for overcoming existing communication barriers.

These factors determine the need to resolve significant difficulties of including parents of children with ASD in interaction with teachers, which can be achieved, in our opinion, by involving parents in monitoring students’ psychosocial development implemented by teachers.

The learning activities of children with ASD are accompanied by numerous difficulties related to the specifics of their motor development, emotional-volitional sphere, behaviour, verbal and non-verbal communication, the identification and interpretation of which by a teacher requires complex and long-term interaction with parents. The marked heterogeneity in the composition of students with ASD causes differences in educational needs, taking into account which educational routes should be differentiated and which educational and educational conditions should be created according to them.

In such cases, the purpose of monitoring is to build a holistic picture of the development of a child with ASD, objectively revealing both his/her deficits and internal (psychological) and external (social) resources, the realisation of which will make it possible to enrich the pupil’s educational potential.

The importance of joint parent-teacher monitoring practices is indicated by established approaches and the results of modern research. For example, numerous barriers that reduce parental satisfaction with the process of diagnosis and post-diagnostic support have been identified based on the study of the opinions of parents raising children with ASD [16]. According to O.S. Nikolskaya, parents of children with ASD need information that will help them to understand what is going on, to identify the child’s difficulties and ways of overcoming them, and to adequately evaluate the success of what they’re doing [11]. E.R. Baenskaya mentions as one of the directions of support for parents of children with ASD the specialists’ assistance in assessing changes in the child’s condition and using his/her achievements in the course of constant discussion with specialists about the changes that are taking place [4]. O.S. Arshatskaya’s work [2] presents the process of psychological support of a child with ASD through the stages of joint work of specialists and parents. T.V. Kuzmicheva’s research shows that the interaction of teachers of different profiles in the course of joint monitoring of a child’s individual psychosocial development, aimed at obtaining, clarifying and interpreting data on the peculiarities of his development, allows teachers to translate the collegial results of the study into the practice of teaching and educating the child [6; 7].

The empirical study presented in this paper aims at identifying characteristics of parent-teacher collaboration in monitoring psychosocial development of children with ASD, at determining conditions and ways of improving such collaboration.

Methods

Research programme

Nine mothers with children 7—8 years old with ASD participated in the study. The families are complete. The age of the mothers ranged from 34 to 43 years old. Two people had higher education, two more had secondary vocational education, and three participants of the study had secondary general education. All mothers attended classes, regularly participated in meetings of the psychological-pedagogical consilium. Before entering school, children received preschool education in compensatory groups, and at the time of the study they were studying in a resource class.

The study was conducted throughout the 2022— 2023 academic year in the following phases.

First stage. Using the developed questionnaire and the proposed methodology of expert-parent dialogue, we determined the characteristics of interaction between parents and teachers in the process of clarifying the monitoring data on the peculiarities of psychosocial development of children with ASD obtained by specialists of different profiles.

The questionnaire included blocks of questions reflecting the parents’ opinion on the completeness of taking into account the child’s individual characteristics in the educational process; on the adaptation of educational process components to the child’s peculiarities; on parents’ awareness of the special conditions created; on parents’ involvement in the educational process and their satisfaction with the created educational environment. When filling in the questionnaire form, parents were offered to choose answer options or indicate “other”.

The dialogue between the expert and the parent involved the latter freely expressing his/her opinion based on reflection of his/her own experience, in the course of which his/her perceptions, expectations and experiences are objectified. The expert offered an instruction that served as a starting point for the dialogue: “It is believed that a common understanding of the facts of the child’s behaviour by teachers and parents is the key to successful education and upbringing. Tell me, what is your opinion on this?”. Next, the parent and the expert watched a video fragment of the lesson. All video clips were made with the parents’ consent and reflected their child’s behaviour in a regulated learning situation. The parent was asked to make suggestions on ways to address the behaviour of the child seen in the lesson. In the course of the dialogue, the parents were encouraged to reason with the help of empathic listening techniques — paraphrases, clarifying questions, pauses, paradoxical interpretations, etc. The dialogue ended with the expert’s recommendations. The dialogue ended with the expert’s recommendations on how to optimize the ways of taking into account the child’s peculiarities in the educational situation. The experts were teachers of the Department of Psychology and Correctional Pedagogy at Murmansk Arctic University (MAU) with appropriate qualifications. The duration of the dialogues ranged from 60 to 90 minutes.

Analysis of parents’ statements during the dialogues was conducted from the point of view of the following criteria: trust in the teachers’ opinion reflecting the specifics of the child’s psychosocial development; parent’s criticality to their ideas about the child’s developmental peculiarities; desire to clarify knowledge about the child’s peculiarities in the process of interaction with teachers, to expand the experience of interaction; understanding of the need for interaction with teachers in determining the possibilities and ways of taking into account the peculiarities of the child’s psychosocial development in his/her education and upbringing; awareness of the responsibility for taking into account the peculiarities of the child’s psychosocial development in the educational process and the need to achieve the unity of pedagogical approaches and educational practices.

The second stage. Based on the data obtained during the dialogue between parents and the expert, psychological and pedagogical conditions were developed to optimize their interaction with teachers in the process of studying the peculiarities of children’s psychosocial development and appropriate monitoring practices were designed.

Third stage. The developments were tested and their effectiveness was verified using the methods of expert-parent dialogue and interviews used at the initial stage.

All parents participated in phases of the study within the same timeframe.

Results

Let us present the main results obtained in the course of the questionnaire. Thus, five parents noted that their child’s individual characteristics are taken into account in the educational process “in most cases” and four more noted that they are taken into account occasionally. Among the ways of adapting the educational environment for the child, all parents noted the following: adaptation of the environment and space, availability of an adapted programme, classes with different specialists. Seven of the respondents pointed out the teacher’s assistance to the child during the lesson, but only four people noted the teachers’ effective use of special methods and technologies in the educational process, which allowed their children to become more successful. Eight parents’ answers showed that they are not sufficiently involved in the development of an individual approach to the organisation of their child’s education and upbringing. Four survey participants are sufficiently informed about the organisation of special conditions at school, the rest are not sufficiently informed. Five people noted low awareness about creation of special conditions that would take into account the peculiarities of their child. Six parents consider themselves fully involved in the educational process. Two of the respondents indicated that the psychological and pedagogical conditions are fully comfortable for their child, while the rest of the questionnaire participants found the conditions insufficiently comfortable. Also, two parents are fully satisfied with the organisation of their children’s education at school, two more people are not fully satisfied, and five survey participants are not satisfied.

Analysis of parents’ statements in the process of dialogue with the expert showed that only two of them expressed trust in the teachers’ opinion regarding the specifics of the child’s psychosocial development, which is manifested in his/her behaviour in educational situations. Six parents were uncritical of their ideas about such specifics: they believe that the knowledge they have about the child is sufficient for choosing effective methods of managing his/her activity, are extremely critical of the teacher’s opinion and seek, in a certain sense, to impose their view on him/ her. Seven people did not express their understanding of the need to interact with teachers in order to determine the most accurate ways of taking into account the child’s developmental characteristics in his/her education and upbringing, and at the same time delegated to the teacher the responsibility for the child’s success and inclusion in the educational process. In general, most parents do not see achieving unity with teachers in understanding pedagogical approaches and selecting educational practices as an important joint task.

In addition, the expert’s dialogue with parents showed that their expectations from the educational process in general and from specific teachers in particular are overestimated in terms of the timeframe for the child to achieve educational results and overcome socialization difficulties (8 people). The expectations of all parents participating in the study reflect the desire to rid the child and themselves of negative social labels and to bring the child’s activity as close as possible to those forms characteristic of children with normotypical development, which is combined with an underestimation of the problems of the child’s psychosocial development. At the same time, all parents expressed concern that teachers may not be attentive enough to the child’s peculiarities, may not be able to organise his/her successful activity at the lesson/chapter, or create comfortable conditions for him/her.

Parents of children with ASD are very demanding of teachers and the results of their work in individualising the education and training of their children. Six parents expressed their desire to monitor the educational process and the teachers’ activities within the framework of their own ideas about the child and the knowledge about the peculiarities of autism that they had previously acquired from various sources. By the time the child starts school, parents have sufficient knowledge, although it is in a certain sense eclectic and absolute: there is a clear manifestation of trust in sources of information that are authoritative for them, while denying or underestimating the observations and conclusions made by teachers about the peculiarities of the child’s psychosocial development and interpretations of the child’s behaviour in educational situations. Parents express their willingness to receive information that would allow them to understand the nature of their children’s psychosocial development and to create a “friendly environment” (7 persons).

In the process of dialogues with the expert it was revealed that all the participants of the study have negative experience of child’s education, formed at the stage of preschool education. In the opinion of all parents participating in the study, such experience is determined by insufficient qualification of teachers in the issue of creating special educational conditions for a child with ASD, their untimely introduction, social rejection of the child by teachers, peers or their parents. Eight out of nine respondents noted the insufficient amount of special assistance provided to their child. Similar data were obtained by S.S. Morozova, N.V. Tarasova and S.G. Chigrina [10]. The authors’ study shows that parents of preschoolers with ASD note the lack of qualification of teachers working with this category of children, as well as the weakness of organisational and methodological support of the educational process. About a quarter of the surveyed parents were dissatisfied with the support of their children in the preschool educational organisation [10]. In addition, all participants of the study noted the manifestations of stigmatisation on the part of society, which also correlates with the results obtained in modern studies of these issues (for example, in Y.A. Afonkina’s work [3]).

Generalisation of the results of the conducted empirical research allowed us to identify productive and unproductive types of interaction between parents of children with ASD and teachers in the process of clarifying knowledge about the peculiarities of the child’s psychosocial development. The productive type implies openness to the exchange of information about the child’s peculiarities, parents’ critical attitude to their assessments of the child’s behaviour and desire to clarify them, trust in the teachers’ opinion about the specifics of the child’s behaviour and its causes, sharing responsibility with teachers in the organisation of education and upbringing taking into account the peculiarities of development, striving to achieve the unity of pedagogical approaches and requirements. Unproductive types of interaction, in turn, are formed by various combinations of the following characteristics: parents’ overcontrol over the educational process and absolutisation of their own knowledge and ideas about the child; denial of teachers’ opinion and their interpretation of facts reflecting the child’s individual characteristics; delegation to teachers of full or predominant responsibility for the process and results of education and upbringing, while retaining the desire to influence the educational process; expecting quick results from the child while underestimating the importance of the current moment in the child’s social adaptation, education and upbringing.

The prevalence of unproductive types of parentteacher interaction was observed in the study sample compared to productive (7 and 2 persons, respectively).

To develop productive interaction between parents of younger students with ASD and teachers, we have identified the following psychological and pedagogical conditions for parental involvement in clarifying and enriching knowledge about the child’s psychosocial development.
  1. Open information exchange between parents and teachers with facts, which are recorded by them in the process of observing the child and reflect the manifestations of intellectual, motor, speech, communicative, emotional features in different educational and social Information exchange allows to form a more complete picture of the specifics of the child’s psychosocial development, the dynamics of development in the educational environment and becomes the basis for joint activities of teachers and parents. Joint activity presupposes a realised need for interaction between the two parties, an understanding of the need to clarify and enrich ideas about the child, and a joint search for compromise solutions to emerging problems in the child’s interests.
  2. Coordinated interpretation of observed facts by parents and teachers, understanding of their dependence on external stimuli and the specifics of children’s activities; joint development of a system of stimuli for each child, allowing for optimal regulation of his or her behaviour in different social and educational situations, decision-making on the necessary transformation of this system, on determining the sufficiency and effectiveness of changes in terms of the child’s achievement of educational
  3. Achieving consistency in understanding the significance of the educational goals and objectives set for the child’s development, as well as informing parents about the ways to achieve them in order to form a clear idea of how the goals and objectives will be realised, taking into account the child’s pe
Teacher-parent interaction was organised during the school year according to phases with different monitoring practices. The information base for such activities was the diagnostic data about the child obtained by the teachers of different profiles in the course of monitoring, which were mutually clarified by the teachers and parents.
At the first stage, the goal was to form a common understanding of the child’s characteristics among parents and teachers. Joint monitoring practices included: collegial compilation and description of a portrait of the child reflecting his/her deficits and strengths on the basis of observations of the child both in educational and everyday situations; visualisation of the portrait and creation of a gallery of pupils’ portraits in the classroom; use of the compiled portrait during consultative conversations with parents, its supplementation and clarification.

At the next stage, the goal of the interaction was to jointly identify the dynamics in the child’s behaviour, determine the degree of sufficiency of the special conditions created and the need to adjust them to achieve a greater effect of inclusion. Monitoring practices involved keeping diary entries, where parents and teachers briefly recorded their impressions of interaction with the child, as well as the results of weekly joint analysis and interpretation of the recorded facts. At the final stage, the interaction between parents and teachers was aimed at designing the process of developing the child’s educational opportunities. They jointly filled in their portfolios, which reflected their educational achievements in the sphere of academic and social competences.

At the end of the school year we repeated the questionnaire survey of parents and conversations on the method of dialogue between the expert and parents. The data obtained show positive dynamics. The number of parents who said that their child’s individual characteristics are taken into account in the educational process “in most cases” increased from five to seven. One more participant of the survey believes that “they are taken into account completely”, and one indicated that “they are taken into account occasionally”. Eight parents noted that the educational environment is quite adaptive and comfortable for their child and indicated that they are fully informed about the creation of special conditions that would take into account the peculiarities of their child’s psychosocial development. At the first stage of the study, none of the respondents stated this. One of the parents noted that he was sufficiently informed. None of the questionnaire participants stated that they were insufficiently informed, whereas five parents had indicated this earlier. The number of parents who are fully satisfied with the organisation of their child’s education at school has increased from two to eight. Another parent is incompletely satisfied, although three respondents gave this answer during the initial questionnaire.

The statements of eight parents during the dialogue with the expert showed trust in the teachers’ opinion about the child’s psychosocial development (for comparison: at the beginning of the study only two interviewees showed such trust), in their competence to organize the child’s successful activities and to maintain a pleasant microclimate in the classroom. These parents showed a willingness to exchange information with teachers about the child’s development, showed a desire to clarify and expand their knowledge, and also noted the consistency of pedagogical approaches to their child’s upbringing and education, as well as a shared responsibility for the child’s educational achievement.

At the end of the study, 8 parents out of 9 had a productive type of interaction with teachers in the process of monitoring the psychosocial development of a child with ASD, while at the first stage of the research work it was noted only in two people.

Conclusions

The results of the presented research show the necessity of timely adjustment of content and organisation of educational process based on parent-teacher interaction, taking into account the peculiarities of individual psychosocial development of children with ASD.

As the results of the initial questionnaire showed, the educational environment, according to parents’ assessments, needs further adaptation and is not comfortable for the majority of children. Parents are poorly informed about special conditions in the educational organisation that ensure individualisation of the educational environment.

The results of the study allow us to conclude that parents have a need to clarify and expand their knowledge of their child’s psychosocial development and to select appropriate methods of their child’s education, upbringing and social development. However, a significant point complicating the interaction between parents and teachers is the lack of trust in the results of teachers’ observations and their interpretation of facts reflecting the specifics of children’s behaviour in educational situations. It should be emphasised that most parents absolutise their own knowledge and at the same time delegate to teachers full responsibility for the process and results of education and upbringing. A significant reason for such contradictions is the negative educational experience acquired by parents of children with ASD during the period of preschool education, which reduces parents’ trust in specialists and in general in the educational environment.

In the process of monitoring the psychosocial development of children with ASD, attention is drawn to the lack of productive interaction between parents and teachers. There is a predominance of unproductive types of interaction between parents and teachers, characterised by insufficient trust in the professional opinions of teachers and the dominance of their own knowledge about the child, which does not allow for the child’s objective portrait and development forecast.

The implementation of joint parents’ and teachers’ monitoring practices, in the course of which information about the child obtained by teachers of different profiles is clarified and expanded, allowed us to include all parents in interaction with teachers and, in most of them, to transform unproductive interaction into productive one.

The results of the presented research, from the theoretical point of view, enrich the ideas about psychological and pedagogical conditions and ways of developing interaction between teachers and parents raising children with ASD. From the practical point of view, the obtained results can serve as a basis for the development of preventive measures against conflict interaction between teachers and parents, against parental mistakes in raising a child, and in general — for the improvement of the system of psychological and pedagogical support of children with ASD and their families.

Further research can be directed towards studying the characteristics of interaction between parents and teachers in the process of monitoring the psychosocial development of a child with ASD at the levels of preschool and basic general education, which will contribute to the construction of a kind of monitoring vertical to ensure continuity in the individualisation of upbringing and education. It is also possible to study the relationship between the psychosocial characteristics of the personality of mothers with children with ASD and the characteristics of their interaction with teachers in the course of monitoring the psychosocial development of children. In addition, it is of research interest to study the organisational conditions and content of training future teachers of different profiles to interact with parents of children with ASD.

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Information About the Authors

Tatiana V. Kuzmicheva, Doctor of Education, Associate Professor, Director of Institute Pedagogy and Psychology, Murmansk Arctic University, Murmansk, Russia, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0210-798X, e-mail: tvkuzmicheva@gmail.com

Yuliya A. Afonkina, PhD in Psychology, Associate Professor, Head of the Department of Psychology and Correctional Pedagogy, Murmansk Arctic University, Murmansk, Russia, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4147-0634, e-mail: julia3141@rambler.ru

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