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Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 2, Lesson 4

Activity #1

In this activity, you will evaluate your own team.

Step 1: Return to the previous section of this Module, entitled Qualities of Effective Teams. Review the 10 Team Characteristics and the 2 Organizational Characteristics.

Step 2: On each of the 12 Characteristics, rate your own team's performance on a scale of 1-5
1= extremely poor performance in this area
2= poor performance in this area
3=adequate performance in this area
4= good performance in this area
5=excellent performance in this area

Step 3: Now review your results. Does your team seem to be operating effectively? What specific areas of concern do you have? What can you do to make your team more effective? How might a family member evaluate the team?

 

Activity #2

Groupthink
Groupthink was originally described by Janis (1972). Groupthink is a faulty decision-making process that can occur in high-functioning, cohesive groups. When groups become strong and cohesive, a norm of harmony and agreement often prevails. While this is good in many respects, it can also exert a negative effect. Groupthink occurs when the group's motivation to preserve harmony overrides basic common sense and good judgment. It is as if the group wishes to maintain harmony at all costs. In an effort to maintain consensus and agreement, the group acts unwisely. In such cases the group's decision is inferior to the decisions that would have been made by each member individually. Examples of Groupthink have been documented by various writers. For example, many people believe that Groupthink contributed to the Challenger shuttle disaster.

As you read about Groupthink, take note of:

  • The definition of Groupthink
  • The symptoms of Groupthink
  • Examples of Groupthink
  • Strategies for avoiding Groupthink

Please read Groupthink of Irving Janis and reflect on these questions.

  1. Can you think of any examples of Groupthink in your personal or professional life?
  2. How can you as an individual avoid drifting into Groupthink when working with your team?
  3. Do you think your team could experience Groupthink?
  4. What are some possible solutions to help teams avoid Groupthink?

 

Activity #3

Transition Meeting

Step 1
The following scenario was written by a parent of a child with special needs. It describes a transition meeting from the perspective of the parent. Transition meetings are very different from staff meetings, yet some of the same concepts apply to both types of meetings. As you read the scenario, pay particular attention to teaming and communication issues. For example: How did the parent and the parent advocate prepare for this meeting? Did the team members show respect for one another? How did the parent feel about the outcome of the meeting?

Transition Scenario

The transition meeting had been set for tomorrow afternoon. I sat and worried about it all day. What if they didn't listen to what I want for my son? How am I going to get them to understand what he needs when I get so emotional? I don't know how I'm going to get through this meeting! As I sit and contemplate all of these questions in my head, the phone rings. A friend is on the other end. She wants to know how things are going. I tell her about my dilemma. She suggests that I call a Parent Advocate and have her come to the meeting with me. What is a Parent Advocate? How much does it cost? Can I contact someone and get them to come with such short notice?

A Parent Advocate is a parent who (probably) has a child with special needs and has been through transition meetings with their child and can offer support, advice, and make sure that YOUR desires for your son are listened to and responded to. "Parent to Parent" offers parent advocates at no charge. I have the name and number of the parent that I used when we had our transition meeting. I'm sure she will be willing to talk to you tonight and be there with you tomorrow.

After hanging up the phone, I called the parent advocate who was recommended by my friend. She talked to me for a long time on the phone discussing what my son's problems were, what I thought was best for him, and what I wanted for him. She suggested that I make a list of his strengths, weaknesses, needs, and anything else that I thought was important for the Team to know about him. I told her I would work on it and e-mail it to her so she could review it before the meeting the next afternoon.

Making the list of strengths and weaknesses really helped me put my son's disability into perspective. He's not stupid, he just can't verbally communicate. He understands simple commands and can follow simple instructions. Does he need to be in an isolated room with children who are just like him? NO! He needs to be challenged by typically developing children his age, he needs exposure to "normal" activities that have been modified to meet his needs, and he needs a curriculum that will encourage him to achieve without frustrating him along the way.

At the transition meeting, I meet briefly with my Parent Advocate. She makes copies of my list to give to the members of the Team. They take a few minutes to review my list. Once the meeting begins and we all talk about what is best for my son, I begin to relax a little because I know that we all want what is best for him. We discuss our options, and I have to make the decision on what we do next. Even though I am having a hard time with the "label", and wondering how it will affect him in the future, I know that I have chosen the best possible environment for my son.

Step 2
What went right in this scenario? Re-read the scenario and write all of your observations on a piece of paper. Then reflect on the following questions:

  1. How did the advocate help this parent prepare for the transition meeting?
  2. When the transition meeting took place, how did the parent respond? Did she appear comfortable?
  3. Do you think the parent's response would have been different had the advocate not been involved? How so?
  4. Are you familiar with parent advocate services in your community?
  5. When might a parent advocate be most helpful?
  6. How might you involve parent advocates as members of your team?

Lesson 4 Highlights

The lesson began by describing the elements of an effective team meeting. Effective meetings are both structured and meaningful. Techniques for achieving success in meetings were described. Teams seem to follow a predictable progression over time. The four 'classic' stages of team development (forming, storming, norming and performing) were discussed, along with the defining features of the fifth stage, known as "transforming." Problems can occur at any phase of team development. Some examples of problems that can occur include lack of strong leadership during the forming stage, problems with conflict resolution, insufficient time for team-building, disruptive influences such as frequent staff turnover, and Groupthink - a faulty decision-making process that can emerge in highly cohesive teams. The characteristics of effective and ineffective teams were described in detail and participants were asked to evaluate the functioning of their own teams.

References

Antoniadis, A. & Videlock, J. L. (1991). In search of teamwork: A transactional approach to team functioning. Infant-Toddler Intervention: The Transdisciplinary Journal, 5, 157-167.

Beckman, P. J. (1996). Strategies for working with families of young children with disabilities. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., Inc.

Briggs, M. H. (1997). Building early intervention teams: Working together for children and families. Gaithersberg, MD: Aspen Publishers, Inc.

Janis, I. (1972). Victims of Groupthink. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Landerholm, E. (1990). The transdisciplinary team approach in infant intervention programs. Teaching Exceptional Children, Winter, 66-70.

Parker, G. M. (1990). Team players and teamwork. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Thomas, C. C., Correa, V. I., & Morsink, C. V. (2001). Interactive teaming: Enhancing programs for students with special needs (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc.

Tuckman, B. W. (1965). Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin, 63, 384-399.

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