Millie Smith Listen to Millie Smith’s advice on the benefits of parent/professional collaboration.


I am Millie Smith, and I have been working with students with visual impairments for almost 40 years now. For most of that time, I was a teacher and an outreach teacher-trainer at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Millie, what are the benefits of a parent/professional collaboration?

Communications skills need to be addressed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in all the important environments and with all the important people in the child’s life. You can’t do that without a collaboration.

If I had a magic wand, the most important area I would have addressed in IEPs for students with visual and multiple impairments is the area of communication. And that area is addressed best when needs at home and needs at school are looked at together by the same groups of people, not differently in each environment. If you have a good collaborative team addressing communication needs, they will be able to establish communication priorities. What that means then is that people at school can support the priorities established by parents for the home environment, and parents can support the development of the skills related to the priorities established by the folks in the school environment.

The most powerful thing about collaboration is consistency. What we can’t really expect is for a child with visual and multiple impairments to learn two separate systems. We can’t expect them to have a way of sending and receiving messages at home and then a different way of sending and receiving messages at school. It’s a burden that we shouldn’t expect them to have to carry at a time when they’re struggling to be successful communicators. Parents and schools need to get together, know what the priorities in each setting are, and agree upon the ways to help the child send and receive messages in both of those environments that are the same so that they can be successful as easily as possible in both environments.