D. Experience-Based Knowledge

Earlier you considered two important sources of evidence: the best available research and policies/professional guidelines about family-professional partnerships. Experience-based knowledge is another source of evidence to help guide your decision-making. Experience-based knowledge is the “know-how” that comes from solving problems, overcoming barriers, and making decisions in everyday life.

CONNECT staff identified parents and practitioners from around the country who have experienced-based knowledge on the topic of family-professional partnerships and invited them to share their views. These knowledgeable spokepersons are:

Janice Fialka
Janice and her husband have two wonderful adult-children, Micah and Emma. They love to laugh together, travel, and discuss social justice issues at the kitchen table. Janice is a social worker, national speaker, author, and is active in the disability justice movement. She is also the Special Projects Trainer for Early On (Michigan's Part C Training and T.A. system). Micah is one of the new wave of adults with intellectual disabilities who attend college. To learn more about Janice and Micah's work, go to www.danceofpartnership.com and www.throughthesamedoor.com.
Samtra Devard
Samtra resides in Bear, Delaware, with her husband and their three children, one of whom has a disability. Samtra is the founder of the HOPE Center Network for Families – which operates under the core belief that “Every Child Has Possibilities”. Samtra is a devoted advocate for children and their families and is particularly interested in advocating for systems change. She is a parent leader in numerous national and state organizations and initiatives, as well as a writer and speaker at workshops and conferences nationwide. Samtra holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from Drexel University. Learn more at about the HOPE Center Network for Families at www.hopecenterofde.com.
Subarna Dharia
Subarna is a pediatrician whose main area of interest is serving children with disabilities. After working in private practice for several years, she now works for the Infant and Toddler Connection of Fairfax-Falls Church in Virginia. Subarna is also the proud mother of two boys. Subarna works with families of children with developmental delays as a resource of medical knowledge. Her oldest son has global developmental delays and inspired her to help other families overcome the challenges associated with special needs. Subarna is interested in the early diagnosis and treatment of disabilities so that children have every opportunity to succeed.
Rosalia Fajardo
Rosalia is Director of Outreach for the Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center (PEATC). She came to the U.S. from Colombia when her advocacy as a special advisor to the Justice Minister brought threats against her life. Through her background as a lawyer, she has applied her expertise in advocacy, community organization, and empowerment to assist countless children and families with a message of hope and change. Rosalia's personal experiences as a parent of a child with disabilities and her knowledge of services has made her a lifeline for immigrant families.
Salvador Moran
Salvador is an early childhood special educator who works with children who are culturally, linguistically and ability diverse in preschool programs in the Arlington, Virginia, public schools. He strives to empower parents to advocate for their children, seeing the value of building authentic relationships with families. Salvador makes learning meaningful for children by listening to their family stories and building on their funds of knowledge. Currently, he is a doctoral student at George Mason University in the Early Childhood Special Education program, concentrating on social justice for young children and their families.

Now listen to audio clips from phone interviews with these spokespersons and identify important considerations to keep in mind about developing trusting partnerships.

Audio 4.2: Janice Fialka

Janice, the mother of two children, including Micah who has intellectual disabilities, talks about her experiences with teachers sometimes only focusing on the disability and not the whole child (running time: 1 min., 56 sec.).

Audio 4.3: Samtra Devard

Samtra, the mother of three children, including one who has a disability, talks about the need for families to be heard and for professionals to ask about parents’ hopes for their children (running time: 1 min., 53 sec.).

Audio 4.4: Subarna Dharia

Subarna, a pediatrician whose main interest in serving children with disabilities was inspired by her son who has global developmental delays, talks about the importance of making sure professionals listen to parents (running time: 1 min., 19 sec.).

Audio 4.5: Rosalia Fajardo

Rosalia, a mother of child with disabilities, talks about her advocacy work and about how to help families be advocates for their children, especially for immigrant families (running time: 3 min., 01 sec.).

Audio 4.6: Salvador Moran

Salvador, an early childhood special educator who works with diverse families, talks about the advantages and importance of involving the family in making decisions (running time: 1 min., 30 sec.).