IDENTIFY INTERESTS OVER POSITIONS
An essential strategy in any conflict resolution situation is the identification of interests over positions. In a conflict, the parents take one position, and the school takes another position, but as long everyone stays focused on their respective positions, there will be no way to satisfy both parties.
If the parents decide to express why they hold their position, however, they might stand a better chance of clarifying to the school why the school should make an unusual or even an unprecedented accommodation for a student. Furthermore, if the parents listen to the needs and interests of the school, rather than simply to their negative answer, they will be far less angry and far more likely to appreciate the school’s position. Once both parties are working together, listening to each other, and trying to find creative solutions that suit their respective needs, the relationships stay positive, and there are few problems that cannot be resolved.
An unfortunately common problem faced by students with Barth syndrome (BTHS) concerns permission to go to the bathroom. Teachers are often doubtful about students who ask to go to the bathroom more than usual, so in order to maintain control, they limit the students’ permission for leaving class. An individual with BTHS, however, sometimes has needs to use the bathroom more regularly than his peers. After their child comes home, upset that he was not allowed to use the bathroom when he needed it, parents would do well to clarify for the teacher their son’s needs and validate the teacher’s perspective as well before they work together to find a solution to the problem.
Another common problem faced by students with BTHS concerns what activity the school offers a student who is excused from physical education or who cannot play with his peers on the playground. When a school decides to have a boy in a wheelchair sit outside and watch his friends play at recess, the parents need to help the school find a more appropriate solution by sharing their own interests for the use of their child’s time and by listening to the school’s interests for the supervision of the students.