Jim Durkel Listen to Jim Durkel’s advice on the benefits of parent/professional collaboration related to the expanded core curriculum.


Hi, I’m Jim Durkel. I’m an outreach teacher with the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Outreach Program. My first professions actually were as a speech-language pathologist and audiologist, and I worked so much with students that were deaf-blind that I came to Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and joined the Outreach Program as a deaf-blind specialist, and while here, went on and got my training as a teacher for the visually impaired.

Jim, what do you believe are the benefits of a parent/professional collaboration related to the expanded core curriculum?

Boy, I think the collaboration really ensures that children will be listening everywhere, not just at school and not just at home. That with the collaboration, we can really give the child good quality listening time constantly, and that’s what the child really needs. We don’t them developing listening skills just in the living room with the parent. We don’t want them developing listening skills just in the pull-out/library where they’re working with the teacher of students with visual impairments. And we really don’t want them using listening skills just when they’re doing street crossings with an orientation and mobility specialist. We want them using those listening skills as best as they can everywhere that they are. And I think that kind of constant environment can only happen when parents and professionals collaborate together. And the listening skills don’t become something so special or so obvious to the child, but it’s just something that becomes more natural and just becomes part of the whole child’s being. So, I think that’s really important.

The other thing that I think collaboration does is it results in better ideas. You know, I can think of things as a teacher at a school that I think might work for a child, but a parent is going to know what’s happening at home and have some really good ideas on how to carry over the kind of things I’m working on at school at home, and they would know better what’s going on at home than I would. And they may come up with something. They may see that their child has started playing a game with a ball that has a bell in it—you know, rolling it across the floor—and the child has made up this really great game, and they tell that to me, and you know what, then I can take that game, and I maybe can get the child involved in playing that game with a peer at school. And now, you know, we have this really better pool of ideas to pull from. And I think that really ends up benefiting the child so much more.

I think that, you know, if there’s just going to be some really specific ideas that I want people to take away from this, it’s that children with visual impairments need regular hearing evaluations; that hearing needs to be protected—we need to guard against noise and sounds that are too loud, especially through headphones; that listening skills improve with practice; that listening skills are important for children with visual impairments; and—maybe this is just my vanity because I’m so interested in listening skills—but I think they impact so many other areas of the expanded core curriculum, listening skills for rec/leisure, things like goalball and games; listening skills as part of orientation and mobility; the listening skills you need to be able to access technology—the kind of critical listening you need to do when you’re surfing a website through hearing only or when you’re reading a book through hearing as well. So there are all these areas that listening really touches on in the expanded core curriculum: daily living skills, career skills. You know, I think so much hinges on listening skills that we really don’t want to forget them. And listening should be fun. It should be fun for the teacher; it should be fun for the family member, and it should be fun for the child. I think there’s just a lot of opportunity to do a lot of fun things in the area of listening and really help our children become the best individuals that they possibly can be.