Family Focused Learning: A Model for Learning from Children with Disabilities and Their Families via Technologies for Voice

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James Skouge
Marie Iding
Katherine Ratliffe
Martha M. Guinan


Video Conferencing, family focus, learning communities


In this paper, we describe a collaborative multidisciplinary model for faculty and students learning about culture and children with disabilities and their families in Pacific Island contexts. The model, Family Focused Learning, incorporates aspects of case-based and problem-based learning within the context of “consumer” and “professional” partnerships (Ratliffe, Stodden, & Robinson, 2000; Robinson, 1999).  Children with disabilities and their families share the daily challenges and successes of their lives with graduate students and faculty at the University of Hawai‘i, via video letters, video mapping, cultural brokering and satellite videoconferencing. To illustrate this process, we present the story of “Tomasi,” a child with cerebral palsy in American Samoa, a US territory.  Tomasi and his family are “given voice” and act as teachers for an interdisciplinary team of faculty and students from public health, social work, physical therapy, speech pathology, nursing, special education, nutrition, medicine, political science and law. 

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