Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Here Comes School: iSUPPORT

So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it.
~1 Thessalonians 5:11, MSG ~ 

Like putting on battle gear to venture into dangerous territory, so can be our journey into the new school year.  We phase our children back into sound sleep habits that were neglected during the summer, as well as line up all of the medical and psycho-social documentation necessary to accompany them on a fresh, new start.  Yet, land mines likely still lay ahead.  Adjustment rarely comes easily to kids like ours.  And new staff, different classmates, or foreign experiences can all mercilessly bombard our students.

For these reasons and so many more, we need to remember not to march into this peril alone.  God made us relational creatures.  I am so very glad He did!  His helping presence dwells in other humans who come alongside us through life's joys and challenges.  I can think of countless times over the years where, so many parents we serve, including myself, have conquered the difficulties of the school year through connection to another person who strengthened them.  In fact, I would contend that successfully advocating for our children simply cannot be done alone.  This is one of the key reasons our ministry is so devoted to mentoring.  

Mutual support can take many different forms when it comes to dealing with school.  Here are just a few examples of what that might look like:
  • Spousal support -- It is incredibly helpful to go into IEP meetings, teacher conferences or in service trainings as a team.  Because emotions run high, one parent tends to pick up information or details that the other does not.  Like it or not, the school team is subconsciously judging us as parents.  When we present a united front, we are much more of a force to be reckoned with.
  • Parent groups -- Most, if not all, of my best techniques, insights and tools as a parent have come from other parents.  Idea sharing is invaluable.  Nothing compares to another parent who is a few steps ahead of you on the journey and has faced similar trials.  These moms and dads tend to know what the laws are and can share what worked for them.  Additionally, their empathy provides comfort and encouragement in the midst of your family's circumstances.
  • Advocates -- Whether an individual possesses an actual job title as an advocate or is just a friend walking into a meeting with you, bringing an extra person along a team member shows you mean business.  Don't get me wrong.  This support is not meant to create an adversarial relationship with your school, but to demonstrate that you are a reasonable person who has others on their side.  Much like spousal support, that advocate can pick up nuances that you have missed in a situation.  And professional advocates are well-acquainted with the law, not allowing schools to weasel out of compliance.
  • Medical professionals -- Sadly, school administration and staff often treat parents dismissively, as if we aren't the foremost experts on our own children.  While medical professionals can often treat us that way as well, they can also be a critical, professional voice when dealing with your child's education.  If they are on the same page with you in regards to your child, you may find them to be just the help you need.  Their words can be powerful and esteemed by educators.  When I had a child with autism getting physical with my son who has hemophilia to the point of tipping him off the scales with anxiety, I could not have succeeded in getting him adequate accommodations without the help of our psychotherapist who is a trauma expert.  The school understood autism to the point where they were giving that child all of the rights while being dismissive of our son's.  That expert was able to convey the magnitude of the situation and spur everyone on to creative problem-solving to everyone's benefit.
  • School allies -- Parent liaisons and staff that have proven to work well with your child can be like an inside track to working well with administrators and new instructors.  Having a friend in this capacity can be such a tremendous help.  This, more than any of these other roles, tends to serve as a bridge-builder.
There is One who you can take with you into any of life's most daunting situations, and He is greater still.  He works through people He has placed in your life.  Don't go it alone!  Use the support God has available for you.  And offer the same kind of support to other parents like you that you see struggling.

Comment Below:  What are some other supports you have found useful in helping your child through school?

PRAY:  Lord, thank you for opening my eyes to the fact that you are always at work around me.  Thank You for the people you bless me with for the journey.  Holy Spirit, when I get overwhelmed or even if I am just trying to prudently plan, remind me to use the support you have provided.

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