In this report, part of a larger ethnographic study, the authors examined the support Japanese elementary school educators provide to parents of children with relatively mild cognitive and behavioral disabilities, such as learning disabilities, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorders, and high-functioning autism. Conditions that affect children's learning and behaviors are widespread, but cultures vary in responses to children with such difficulties and their families. In many cultures, disability remains a sensitive issue due to lingering stigma. Japan's recent implementation of special education services for children with mild cognitive and behavioral disabilities provided a unique context in which to examine otherwise taken-for-granted beliefs and practices related to disability. Participant observations in a Japanese elementary school and individual interviews with educators and parents suggest that parents' sensitivity to other people's "eyes," or stigma, can be an obstacle to their acceptance of their children's need for special education, permission for their children to receive services, and collaboration with educators. Educators supported parents through a steadfast focus on emotional support, communication, relationship building, and partnerships. Japanese practices and adults' reflections on stigma provide a broader context for international, school, and other social workers to reflect on their own beliefs and practices with families of children with disabilities.
- cognitive and behavioral disabilities
- special education
- stigma-sensitive practice
- support for families