Consultation, Collaboration, and Teamwork for Learners with Special Needs

Consultation,Collaboration, and Teamwork for Learners with Special Needs

Consultation,Collaboration, and Teamwork for Learners with Special Needs

Teachingis one of the multidimensional tasks that are difficult for anindividual professional to achieve without inviting the contributionof the co-workers. Consultation, collaboration, and teamwork are someof the key aspects that can enhance the efficiency of teachers indelivering the course content, especially when their learners havedifferent learning capabilities. A collaborative consultation in alearning environment can be defined as a process in which teacherswork together in sharing the responsibilities of enlightening theirstudents, especially those with special needs (Srivastava, 2011).Although many educators dream of an effective collaboration in theirprofession, most of them are not ready for it. This means that mosteducators fail to understand the significance of collaborativeconsultation and teamwork to learners with special needs.Consultation, collaboration, and teamwork among the educators ensurethat students are kept in regular classroom situation, which improvestheir ability to concentrate and understand the course content. Thispaper will provide a discussion on how consultation, collaboration,and teamwork can be applied in the case of students with attentiondeficit disorder (William Perry) and behavioral disorder (JannaSmall).

Rolesand responsibilities

Roledelineation is one of the key elements of consultation andcollaboration in schools. The process of the role delineation startswith role clarification, which reduces ambiguous feelings aboutcollaboration, consultation, and education teams (Dettmer, Thurston &ampDyck, 2005). A teacher in a new school year should embark on theprocess of role clarification by relinquishing the conventionalroles, embrace the practice of sharing skills, and rotatingassignments in a manner that expands the students’ and educators’educational experience. For example, the teacher may start the yearby consulting a reading specialist for each of them may have someinformation that can help them address the weaknesses of the twolearners with disabilities (ADD and behavioral problems) irrespectiveof whether either of the educators knows the expectations,curriculum, and educational priorities for the students. By doingthis the consulting teacher will be able to clarify his roles for thelearners with special needs.

Roleparity is one of the key factors that can motivate consultingteachers to assume their responsibilities of helping students withspecial needs. Unfortunately, many institutions of learning fail torecognize the contribution of the consulting teachers in the welfareof students, which results in the issue of non-teachingresponsibilities (such as driving the school bus) to consultingteachers (Dettmer, Thurston &amp Dyck, 2005). To achieve roleparity, the consulting teacher should embark on creating theawareness about his role in helping students with special needs amongthe school administrators and other educators. The awareness shouldaim at indicating that the contribution of a consulting teacher isequally important to the contribution of other educators.

Fulfillingthe role expectation is a significant challenge, especially among theconsulting teachers who are expected to help students with learningdisabilities compete fairly with other students. The major challengearises when the school administrators expect instant success oranticipate too little from the educators (Dettmer, Thurston &ampDyck, 2005). The consulting teachers who are given the responsibilityof assisting students with learning disabilities (including the ADDand behavioral problems) can use two approaches to fulfill their roleexpectations. First, the educator should manage expectations, whichshould start by setting specific goals depending on the disability ofeach student, and then monitoring the accomplishment of those goals.Secondly, the teacher should communicate with the schooladministration about their goals and deadlines set to accomplishthem. According to Dettmer, Thurston &amp Dyck (2005) effectivecommunication minimizes unnecessary expectations, especially for theconsulting teachers. This means that setting personal goals andcommunicating them with the administration is an effective way offulfilling the role expectations.

Invitingthe participation of all the stakeholders in a collaborative programis ensuring its acceptance in the school. Acceptance of aconsultative program aimed at assisting students with special needscan be achieved in two ways. First, communicating the success and thebenefits of the program increases its acceptance by theadministrators and other educators (Dettmer, Thurston &amp Dyck,2005). The teacher should, therefore, ensure that the value of hiscontribution in helping the two students is well understood by othereducators and the school administration. Secondly, involving all thestakeholders in the development of a collaborative program isinstrumental in ensuring that the program is accepted by people whoare expected to implement it (Dettmer, Thurston &amp Dyck, 2005).This means that other educators should be involved in the process ofdeveloping a consultative program right from the needs assessment,planning, and evaluation.

Modelsof consultation and collaboration

Consultantscan use different models of consultation and collaboration dependingon the manner in which they intend to ensure that the service reachesthe target. In addition, the type of disability affecting anindividual student is an important factor considered when selecting acollaborative model. In the present cases study, it is important toapply a single model, but in different approaches since the twostudents (William Perry and Janna Small) have different learningdisabilities that require slightly different approaches. The triadicmodel can work the best for the two students. Under this model, theconsultation services offered indirectly to the target, but thedirection of flow of service can change depending on the primaryobjective of the consultation (Dettmer, Thurston &amp Dyck, 2005).This means that both the consultant and the mediator will own-up thesuccess as well as the failure of the consultation program.

Inone hand, the classroom teacher should act as a mediator who receivesthe services from the consultant and pass it to the William andSmall. This is based on the fact that the two students have beenexperiencing difficulties in the class work. In the case of William,the leading factor that necessitates the selection of this approachis the fact that he has new and several teachers who might need toconsult more about his learning abilities. In the case of JannaSmall, the leading factors for the selection of this model are thefact that her teachers do not have the skills to deal with herbehavioral problems, and might want to inquire more from aconsultant. This means that both the consultant and the classroomteacher will own-up the success or the failure of the program.

Inthe case of William, another approach should be used, where theparent will act as the mediator. This means that the consultant willdeliver the consultation service to the parent who will then play arole in helping William overcome his learning disabilities. Theselection of this approach is based on the fact that William’sparents have noticed that he takes longer to finish the homeworkcompared to other students and forgets his books and homework athome. This means that his parents have a role to play in enhancingWilliam’s commitment in studies and his overall performance.However, the consultant will play a vital role in improving theparents’ capacity to provide viable support to William.


Theprocess of problem solving can require the use of ad hoc or genericapproaches in an organized manner, with the primary objective ofidentifying a solution to a given problem. There are ten major stepsthat can result in the identification of a viable solution to thelearning problem that William Perry has been facing. First, thestakeholders (including the consulting teacher) should determine theexistence of the problem with regard to William’s learning process.This means that the first step focuses on the determination of theexistence of the problem (Dettmer, Thurston &amp Dyck, 2005). Fromthe case study, the main issue of concern is that William has beenstruggling to keep pace with other students in his grade, which is aconfirmation that there is a problem with his knowledge acquisitionabilities.

Oncethe key issue has been identified, the second step should involve thedefinition of the problem. This is a tricky step because an incorrectdefinition of the problem affects the entire process of finding aviable solution (Srivastava, 2011). In the case of William, theunderlying problem is attention deficit disorder, which is the majorcause of his inability to compete fairly with other students.

Inthe third step, the stakeholders should search for information aboutthe problem affecting William’s learning process. Although theproblem have already been identified, it is reasonable to understandthe problem in details before looking for a solution. For example,the consultant can learn more about the causes and effects of theattention deficit disorder among students.

Thefifth step should involve the development of the possible strategiesthat can be used to solve the problem. At this stage, thestakeholders should identify all the possible strategies that canimprove William’s learning pace. In addition, the stakeholdersshould also identify the possible challenges and resources requiredfor each alternative (Srivastava, 2011).

Inthe fifth step, the consultant should select the most appropriatestrategy that will address the underlying problem more effectively.This means that that selected strategy should be able to resolveWilliam’s learning problem more than other available alternatives.

Thesixth stage is the definition of the expected outcome of theunderlying problem (Dettmer, Thurston &amp Dyck, 2005). This meansthat the consultant should identify the possible results of thestrategy selected in the fifth step. In the case of William, theexpected outcomes of the selected strategy should focus on thepossibility of enhancing his knowledge acquisition and increasing hisability to learn at the same pace with other students in the samegrade.

Theselected strategy should be implemented in the seventh step. Duringthe implementation process, the consultant should informationpertaining to the efficacy of the strategy being implemented. Theimplementation process should be flexible to allow the consultantmake some modifications in order to address unanticipated obstacles(Dettmer, Thurston &amp Dyck, 2005).

Theeighth step involves the evaluation of the efficiency of theimplementation process and the strategy being implemented. In thecase of William, the consultant should identify whether the strategyhas successfully improved his learning abilities and enabled him toremember his books and homework.

Inthe ninth step, the consultant should compare the actual and theexpected results. The difference between the two sets of results isthe key determinant of the efficiency of the strategy. The consultantlearns on the mistakes made during the implementation stage.

Lastly,the consultant should determine whether the actual and expectedresults are in agreement. In case the two sets of results agree, thenthe consultant will have solved William’s learning disability. Incase they do not agree, the problem has not been solved and theconsultant should start over the process (Srivastava, 2011).


Differentcommunication strategies are formulated to assist organizations inmeeting their key objectives through effective communication. Acommunication strategy is adopted by the organization depending onits perceived capacity to address the prevailing challenge. In thepresent case study, there is a probability that some teachers willdemonstrate resistance during the school consultation experiences.For example, some teachers might feel uncomfortable with theapplication of a co-teaching approach aimed at aimed at improvingWilliam’s and Janna’s knowledge acquisition. There are threecommunication strategies that will help in the management of thepossible teachers’ resistance to the suggested solutions. The firststrategy is reaching the teachers where they are. This means that theconsultant should not limit the conversation to a single meeting andthen drop it, but the consultant should continue reaching to teachersthroughout their workday. For example, messages about thesustainability of the solutions that have been suggested to addressWilliam’s and Janna’s leaning disabilities should be placed indifferent locations, including the school notice board, staffroom,and classroom walls. This strategy will create an open climate ofopen communication within the organization, which is a majorcontributing factor towards the establishment of a sustainableatmosphere (Landrum, 2001).

Secondly,the use of a communication strategy backed on both formal andinformal in communicating the progress of the suggested solutionswill reduce teachers’ resistance. According to Dettmer, Thurston &ampDyck (2005) the involvement of as many teachers as possible in bothinformal and formal communications reduces unwarranted expectationsduring the consultations. Applying both informal and formalcommunication is the basis of successful collaborations because itmakes teachers cooperative and receptive colleagues. This will thengenerate respect for the consultation process and confidence in theconsultant by the resistant and reluctant teachers (Dettmer, Thurston&amp Dyck, 2005). In addition, communicating with teachers in bothinformal and formal increases the chances for their participation inthe sustainability discussion in both the informal and formal forums,which in turn increases the acceptability of the suggested solutions.

Third,the consultant should put more emphasis on interactive communication,where conversations are perceived to be two ways instead of beinghierarchical or one-way, throughout the consultation process.According to Dettmer, Thurston &amp Dyck (2005) a two waycommunication creates a sense of parity, which in turn blends theknowledge and skills of both the consultee and the consultant. Thisensures that any disagreements or resistance by the teachers isviewed are viewed as prospects for practical extraction usefulinformation. In essence, an interactive communication between theconsultant and the teachers (mediators) accommodate the views ofteachers, thus reducing the chances for them to resist the suggestedsolutions. However, an interactive communication should be coupledwith appropriate communication skills (such as empathy, genuineness,and active listening), which will ensure that reluctant teachers feelthat their concerns are taken care of (Landrum, 2001). This willeventually reduce teachers’ resistance to solutions suggested toaddress the Williams’ and Janna’s leading disabilities.


Thepre-test and post-test is the most appropriate and effective way ofassessing William’s and Janna’s performance during theconsultation program. The pre-test means that the two students shouldbe subjected to a test at the beginning of the semester or before theonset of the program designed to address their learning disabilities.Although the content of the tests may differ slightly depending onthe specific learning disabilities being tested, a similar procedureshould be followed for the two students. Pre- and post-test isdesigned to help educators evaluate the performance of their learnersand formulate strategies that can enhance their learning processbefore the end of a given period (Srivastava, 2011). A pre-testshould be administered to William and Janna as soon as they enter theprogram and focus on testing their reading, listening, speaking, andwriting skills among other skills. The post-test should beadministered to the two students at the end of the semester toevaluate their knowledge gains during the consultative program. Thiscan be done soon after the end-of-term exam. The post-test should bedesigned on the topic-by-topic basis since its main objective is todetermine the learner’s knowledge acquisition.

Theeffectiveness of the consultative program planning will be monitoredby assessing the achievement of short-term individual educationprogram (IEP) goals. Different IEP goals should be developed the twostudents (William and Janna) depending on their specific learningneeds. The consultant should determine the special needs of each ofthe two students and then set both the short- and long-term IEPgoals. The special needs can be determined through informal andformal approaches, such as observation of learner’s behavior,parent feedback, and comparing their academic achievements comparedto other students in the same grade (Dettmer, Thurston &amp Dyck,2005). The accomplishment of these IEP goals should serve as thebasis of monitoring the effectiveness of the consultative programplanning. The accomplishment of the short-term IEP goals (such asenhanced performance in visual motor tasks in the case of William andhelping Janna concentrate in class work) will indicate that theprogram will succeed.

Theevaluation of the effectiveness of the consultation should focus onwhether the process meets some specified goals. This means that theevaluation should assess the implementation process and the outcomeof the consultation. The results obtained from the evaluation can beused to modify future consultation processes (Dettmer, Thurston &ampDyck, 2005). Since the monitoring face focused on the achievement ofshort-term IEP goals, the evaluation phase should assess whether theconsultation have achieved the long-term IEP goals. This can beachieved by assessing the satisfaction of the two students (Williamand Janna) at the end of the program and determining whether theirrespective learning disabilities have been satisfactorily addressed.For example, the consultant can determine whether the William hasacquired the ability to keep pace with students in the same grade,handle visual motor tasks, and remember assignments and homework atthe end of the consultation process or a pre-determined period. Inthe case of Janna, the consultant should determine whether theconsultation process have reduced her mood swings and imparted aninterest in all subjects.

Consultationand collaboration with parents

Theparents of the two students (William and Janna) have a role to playin the consultation process that is aimed at enhancing the learningabilities of their children. Parents can play different roles,including acting as mediators or consultants. The consultant canconsult parents to get information about the child’s home context,which is not available to the consultant (Dettmer, Thurston &ampDyck, 2005). Consequently, the consultant should convene meetingswith the parents, each at a time in order to inquire more about theirconduct and learning difficulties while at home. This means thatparents can be involved in the consultation process by requiring themto provide more information about their children and giving themadvice on what they can contribute to enhance the learning abilitiesof their children. For example, William’s parents can be requestedto remind him about his books and homework, which will reduce histendency to forget them quite often.

Theimmediate need of William’s and Janna’s parents is to have theirchildren competing fairly with other children in their respectivegrades. Family empowerment is the most appropriate way of addressingthe needs of parents of the two students. According to Dettmer,Thurston &amp Dyck (2005) a well intentioned professional oreducator empower families (including the parents) to take action thathelp their children reach their goals, satisfy their needs and wants,and build on their future. Parents’ empowerment means that theconsultant should embark on imparting William’s and Janna’sparents with skills and knowledge that they require to act asadvocates for themselves as well as their children. For example, itwill be important for the consultant to inform William’s parentswhat they can do to help him remembers his homework, while Janna’sparents should be enlightened on how they can help her get someinterest in other subjects apart from arts.

Theconcept of forming home-school partnership is based on the notionthat families are families or homes are a constant in student’slives and should act as equal partners in decisions that affect theirlearning programs (Dettmer, Thurston &amp Dyck, 2005). There are twomajor ways through which the consultant can facilitate theestablishment of home-school partnership. First, the consultantshould promote positive and regular communication with parents(Callender, 2013). The focus of the communication should be thequality and quantity of the interactions between educators and thefamilies. Secondly, the consultant should focus on providing avariety of opportunities for schools and families to interact(Callender, 2013). This can be achieved by inviting parents to takepart in the development of school procedures and policies that canaddress the special needs affecting their children.


Technologicaladvancement has enhanced nearly all aspects of human life. To thisend, an effective consultant should understand how to applytechnology that can help students with special needs. The use ofcomputers and emerging technologies can save consultant’s time(Dettmer, Thurston &amp Dyck, 2005). As a consultant in a newposition, it will be advisable to establish a data-base that willcontain information about the progress of each of the two students,William and Janna. Computer adaptation of assignments is another wayof using technology to design assignments for students with specialneeds in a faster way.

Theaforementioned technological applications are meant to help theconsultant in delivering the service more effectively. Assistivetechnology can also be applied to help the students with specialneeds overcome their learning disabilities. In the case of William,there are two types of assistive technologies that the consultant canuse to address his learning disorder. First, the text-to-speechprogram is an assistive technology that will help William thehandling the visual motor tasks. Text-to-speech is a program thatconverts text contents into speech (Sheltons, 2014). This technologywas designed to help students with visual challenges, strugglingreaders, and auditory learners.

Secondly,a digital timer, which gives a high precision time setting, will helpthe consultant address the William’s challenge of forgetting hishomework and books. Timer is an assistive technology that helpslearners maintains focus on their work for a given period of work(Sheltons, 2014).

Inthe case of Janna, there are two types of assistive technologies thatthe consultant can use to address her specific leading problems.First, clicker is an assistive technology that gives immediate dataand feedback on learner’s knowledge of material (Sheltons, 2014).Since Janna has been experiencing some problems in concentrating inclass work, the use of a clicker will motivate her to pay attentionto all subjects, including the arts.

Secondly,a smart board is an assistive technology that can help the consultantin differentiating instructions in order to help Janna concentrate inclass and develop an interest in all subjects. Smart boards, allowinstructors to provide engaging lectures that motivate learners(Sheltons, 2014).


Studentssuffering from the attention deficit disorder require the use ofdifferent teaching strategies in order to help them keep pace withother learners. In the case of William, the most appropriate teachingstrategies should have at least three components, includingaccommodation (making learning easy), instruction (actual teaching),and intervention (reducing factors that distract the learner). Thereare two major teaching strategies that can successfully addressWilliam’s learning challenges. First, the consultant should modifythe classroom environment to ensure that it best suits him. Forexample, the instructor can provide him with an individualizedwritten schedule to which he can refer to and reduce excess visualstimuli that might distract and prevent him from accomplishing thevisual motor tasks (Segal &amp Smith, 2014). Secondly, theconsultant should focus on memory assistance strategies in order toaddress William’s challenge of forgetting his assignment and books.For example, William can help William progress during the class byusing simple learning steps, including see it, say it, and do it(Segal &amp Smith, 2014).

Curriculummodification is one of the key strategies that can be used to helpthe consultant in addressing William’s learning disabilities.Curriculum differentiation involves the alteration of the content,goals, and performance expectations for students with learningdisabilities (Dettmer, Thurston &amp Dyck, 2005). The consultant canperform differentiation for the sake of William in three ways. First,the content differentiation content differentiation can achieved byreducing the aspects of all lessons that William will be required tocover. This will help him cover the same workload that other studentsare covering. Secondly, the consultant should differentiate theprocess of delivering the course content in order to help Williamhandle the visual motor tasks. For example, instructors can berequested to use visual resources, including videos, and pictures.Third, the consultant can differentiate the learning outcome forWilliam to help him keep the pace with other students. For example,William can be allowed to prepare his assignment power pointpresentations instead of writing lengthy paragraphs. The classroomdifferentiation and the use of teaching strategies tailored toaccommodate a student with ADD will create can suitable learningenvironment for William.


Staffdevelopment involves the training and other programs that designedwith the objective of enhancing the skills and the knowledge ofmembers of staff. According to Dettmer, Thurston &amp Dyck (2005)professional development should attend to the specific needs of thetarget members of staff. In the present case study, the professionaldevelopment plan will follow five steps

Professionaldevelopment goals

Thegoals of this professional development include the enhancement of theeducators’ skills on co-education and accommodation of studentswith ADD and behavioral learning disorders.

Consultingwith educators and the school administrators

Theconsultation should focus on inquiring about the challenges thateducators are experiencing in helping learners with special needs.This will ensure that their challenges are addressed by the stafftraining program.

Decidingon the type of skills needed by the educators and the schooladministrators

Thiswill be done after assessing the educators’ abilities and gaps intheir teaching abilities.

Creatingan action plan

Actionplans will include a decision on the combination of the staffdevelopment strategies that will address the educators’ needs. Someof the development programs to be considered include training,one-on-one coaching, and co-working with the consultant.

Applyingthe new knowledge and skills in the school

Theeducators and the school administrators will be required to use theskills and knowledge acquired to help learners with disabilities.

Theconsultant will be involved in the process of designing the stafftraining programs, during the training, and at the time ofimplementing the knowledge in school. This will ensure that the staffdevelopment plan address all the school’s needs and the knowledgeacquired is properly utilized for the benefits of learners withspecial needs.


Studentswith learning disorders (such as ADD and behavioral disorders) oftenlearn often find it difficult to compete fairly with other learners.However, their schools can adopt different strategies to help themcope with their learning disorders and handle the same workload asother learners. Schools with this category of learners should embarkon consultations, collaborations, and teamwork in order to helpstudents with learning difficulties. Some of the strategies that theschools should use to assist these students include curriculumdifferentiation, staff development, the use of assistive technology,and the use of effective teaching strategies.


Callender,S. (2013). Family-schoolpartnerships: Information and approaches for education.Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota.

Dettmer,P., Thurston, P. &amp Dyck, J. (2005). Consultation,collaboration, and teamwork for students with special needs (5thed).Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Landrum,M. S. (2001). Resource consultation and collaboration in giftededucation. Psychologyin the Schools,38(5), 457-466.

Segal,J. &amp Smith, M. (2014). Teachingstudents with ADD / ADHD.Sacramento: California Community Foundation.

SheltonsK. (2014). Assistivetechnology and educational best practices for students with ADHD.Ypsilanti: Lincoln Consolidated Schools.

Srivastava,S. (2011). Collaboration,consultation, and teamwork for special need children.New Delhi: Sonali Publications.