I have been thinking of a recent disagreement, or conflict, that I am currently or recently experiencing either in my personal life or with a colleague. I have to say that, in recent years, I haven’t had a disagreement or conflict – except for normal spousal spats. I am guessing that this might make me a competent communicator.
The most “recent” conflict was when my son was in middle school about 11 years ago and having issues with his sign language interpreter that was not qualified to work with him because of her language and interpreting abilities.
The issue was that there was no one in the school district office who was able to evaluate her sign language and interpreting skills. When I offered that I was able to assist in that respect, they responded that they did not allow parents to become involved with the interview and selection process. I tried to convince them that all I would be doing was to affirm their abilities, not selecting the candidate. They would not hear of it.
We had a series of Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings where there was a sizable number of people involved. We would be going back and forth, and it was an exasperating process. Two things happened that did resolve the conflict.
My husband helped me to identify the scope of the issue and recommended that I focus on gathering information related to the issue. I researched the regulations of 504 that stated that the Deaf client had the right to select the interpreter of their choice – because not all interpreters are qualified to work with different deaf people with different needs. I copied and highlighted the section and sent it to every person who had been involved with my son’s IEP.
At the next meeting, there was a new member of our IEP team, a newly hired Vice Principal who did not utter anything at the meeting. Somehow the Special Education Director was still resistant to making the decision to replace the unqualified interpreter. I kept telling her that we did not want to go to due process and that we would win hands down. The meeting got heated, and the interpreter started to cry. The Special Education Director looked at my son and said, “Look at what you did; you made her cry!” My son did not flicker because luckily I groomed him not to react to anything they said.
I think the Vice Principal saw enough to make her own conclusions. Right after the meeting ended badly, she came up to me and asked if I could sit down and explain the history of the issue. I explained to her that there was no one qualified in the entire school district to evaluate the interpreting abilities of the sign language interpreter. She got it, clearly. Before I knew it, she had the interpreter replaced and arranged for me to meet all of the candidates and recommended a few for the district to select. They also added a provision that the interpreter would be given a one-month and three-month probation.
Ever since, the school district would be most cooperative with our family’s access needs.
I cannot say what we did that clinched the solution of the conflict. My husband coached me how to conduct myself by sticking to the “facts” of the issue: the qualifications of the sign language interpreter and the deaf client’s right to replace the interpreter. That nearly did not work. The new Vice Principal made it happen. The question now is why she was able to make it happen and not the Special Education Director.
I do not recall any situation where I was able to work out the disagreement with another individual because we both worked together and resolved it. It would be more that I used my legal rights to let them know they would be out of compliance; and they would then comply. That’s also why I wondered about the nonviolent communication (NVC) or the 3Rs.
While I totally and wholeheartedly agree with their principles, I do not recall a time when their principles worked for me.