Changing the power of discourse: intercultural communication for the involvement of Black parents with high school students in special education : the admission review and dismissal experience

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Johnson, Debra Joyce

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Although the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act (2001) provided parents an active and more visible role in the education of their children, these roles can be supported only through meaningful dialogue that is understood by both the transmitter and the receiver. African American (AA) families with high school students in special education often face challenges in communicating with professionals who are Admission Review and Dismissal (ARD) committee members, who may only communicate from their perspective. This diminishes the possibilities of utilizing intercultural communication processes; therefore, not applying the “posture of cultural reciprocity.” This qualitative study describes and interprets the insight and experiences of AA parents with high school students in special education as they relate to intercultural communication and the “posture of cultural reciprocity.” Intercultural communication identifies a “process by which two individuals who do not belong to the same culture ‘try’ to exchange a set of ideas, feelings, symbols...[and] meanings” (Casse, 1980, p. 16). Since they do not belong to the same culture, by implication they do not share the same assumptions, beliefs, values, or some ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving (Casse). The “posture of cultural reciprocity” (Kalyanpur & Harry, 1999) can be described as building relationships between families and professionals so that the cultural needs of the parents are met and understood. It may also address the need for professionals “to confront the contradictions between their values and practices” (Skrtic, 1991, p. 42) so that meaningful dialogue is achieved to assist parents and students. Findings from the study revealed that professionals in ARD meetings did not usually communicate using intercultural communication processes or from the “posture of cultural reciprocity”; thus meaningful communication between parents and professionals was limited. This was especially evident as parents related their perceptions of communicating the needs of their students in (a) curriculum, (b) social and emotional development, and (c) student satisfaction.