Video: Teacher and Parent Relationships

This video delivers effective learning strategies from 3 unique perspectives: a teacher, a parent, and a student who has FASD.

About this video

Production Date: January 20, 2010
Length: 1 hour 5 minutes
Presenters: Charlene Organ, Debra Organ and Jenifer Fontaine
Download slide notes for this video (PDF, 23 pages)

Jenifer Fontaine (Med) has worked as a special education teacher, school counselor and psychology consultant. Her main interests include helping students develop a resilient skill set, a hopeful perspective and successful interpersonal relationships. At the time of this video, Jennifer was enrolled in a doctoral program in Educational Psychology.

Charlene Organ was adopted by Debra Organ at the age of 2 and diagnosed with FASD at the age of 3. She has been educated in both integrated and segregated education settings. In year 12 she received the Employability Skills and Achievement Certificate, one of 14 students who received this certificate outside of Toronto in 2007. Later, through continuing education, Charlene completed her grade 12 diploma. She received 2 scholarships while attending continuing education and plans on furthering her education in a post-secondary environment.

Debra Organ is a single parent with 18 years’ experience raising a child with FASD. She is a passionate and vocal advocate in all areas of FASD and has strong desire to ensure that barriers be set aside to nurture Charlene’s success and happiness.


This video will help you understand:

  • effective learning strategies from the perspective of a student, a parent, and a teacher
  • strategies for effective collaboration
  • successful practices


  1. A parent’s perspective (37:11)
  2. A teacher’s perspective (18:26)
  3. Charlene’s perspective (7:42)

A parent’s perspective

Advice to caregivers of children with FASD:

  • find a counsellor who supports your philosophy; do this before you need them so that in case of crisis, the child will feel safe with them
  • do your research about FASD and the services available
  • each child is unique and requires her own learning path. does your child learn best by doing, for example: touching and feeling?
  • It’s important to acknowledge your own feelings of fear and other emotions, then you can move on in a positive way
  • a parent with a child of FASD carries stigma; they are often regarded as a bad parent and the child has no value or is perceived as not able to learn
  • emphasize the abilities and the possibilities
  • be persistent until something works
  • set small goals – for example concentrate on reading a word, then a paragraph, then a page, not the whole book
  • redefine what is meant by success
  • acknowledge and celebrate every success.
  • set goals within the goal – the time frame is not as important as the goal
  • early intervention makes a difference
  • Charlene began receiving support at age 3 – this made it easier to define some of the challenges and provide the right supports and tools
  • finding the right school for your child at the right stage of your child’s development requires extensive research
  • not all schools are right for all children
  • ask questions to make sure teachers have the tools for success with your child

Inclusive (integrated) vs. segregated learning settings

1. Integrated setting

  • advantage:
    • more reflective of the real world
    • bond with all types of people
    • able to model her actions like her peers
  • disadvantage:
    • Prejudice
    • may get taken advantage of without realizing it

2. Segregated setting

  • advantage:
    • Less bullying
    • more acceptance
    • teacher able to focus on common needs of students
  • disadvantage:
    • not the real world
    • friends may not live in neighbourhood
    • harder to maintain relationships

Important points to consider

Honest, open communication between parent/teacher is key:

  • recognize each other’s knowledge and expertise
  • reinforce each other’s techniques at home and school
  • understand and appreciate that the teacher has limitations
  • the teacher has more than one child in their classroom.
  • attend school functions, model and maintain a good relationship

Make use of community resources:

  • is your child entitled to an aide?
  • if so, push for one
  • this also helps the teacher
  • parent’s job to ensure child is ready for school:
    • enough sleep (strict bedtime was critical)
    • healthy breakfast
    • clean clothes (encourages self-esteem)
  • recognize and reward efforts at home

Work as a team:

  • educate teachers about what works for your child
  • commit to supporting child’s schoolwork at home
  • make homework positive at home; a way to spend time together and learn together, building communication
  • be a role model for learning

Parent-teacher challenges:

  • some teachers maintain a “disconnected relationship – what happens at school stays at school and vice versa”
  • some teachers take offence to being questioned about techniques
  • some teachers did not believe success was possible with a FASD student and don’t know how to help
  • understand the limitations on the teacher, yourself and administration
  • being able to be contacted at all times is necessary
  • some teachers have very low expectations

The teacher’s perspective

Advice for teachers of children with FASD:

  • overall what we look for is what we see – we look for positives
  • discipline plan is important and should include expectations for behaviour and assignment completion
  • sponsor learning opportunities to help parents support their children at home with:
    • presentations
    • workshops
    • homework guides that include recommendations for a quiet environment and amount of time to spend on homework
  • provide a way for parents to contact you with questions


  • communication should not involve attacking or defending
  • keep in mind both the teacher and parent have the child’s best interest at heart

Ask questions:

  • what works best at home?
  • what works best at school?

Establish common goals:

  • both teacher and parent have had the goal of providing Charlene with the opportunity to feel accepted, capable, confident not only as a student but as a peer and classmate
  • important for Charlene to have a positive story about herself

Steps for a positive classroom experience

  1. In the classroom:
    • use scientific/curious approach to learning
    • explicit skills taught to all class members
    • use evidence based interventions
    • incorporate strategies for different learning styles in all activities
  2. Build positive social and academic narratives:
    • stories for strengthening child’s assets
    • externalizing challenges and approaching them with curiosity
    • use asset-building language: “I appreciate the way you...”
    • consider the individual within the social environment
    • create a positive social identity and social connections
    • limitations are often the focus
    • child needs to believe they can learn
    • focus on abilities and strengths
  3. Use a scientific approach to learning:
    • mistakes should be detoxified and seen as learning opportunities
    • everyone is expected to be successful sometimes and not successful other times
    • all students see each other as having strengths and challenges, and everyone’s strengths and challenges are different
    • students do not feel stigmatized when they do not understand; they realize that all learning is experimental
    • everyone is seen as having assets and positive contributing group member
  4. Use evidence based strategies:
    • incorporate strategies for all learning styles when introducing concepts
    • provide opportunities for lots of practice
    • think aloud
    • use of rubrics (outline of assignment)
    • helps child to stay on task and feel independent

Charlene’s perspective

Keys to success:

  • graduating with a high school diploma
  • learning how to make friends in a safe environment
  • learning in a fun way
  • watching movies after reading the novel
  • having teachers she could trust
  • they believed in Charlene, told her she was a good person and that she could succeed
  • this was very inspiring to her
  • having her mom’s encouragement was important


  • doing individual projects, felt ‘stupid’
  • sometimes the kids were mean and this made Charlene not want to work in class
  • often had extra work due to time away from class for medical reasons
  • learning to talk about feelings
  • learning to do math
Modified: 2015-09-09
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