Workshop For Dads – Autism and Special Education

Dads navigating through their children’s preschool through high school experiences have long been seen as the person who only attends an annual parent-teacher conference or appears at a school meeting when problems arise.  No longer.

Fathers are taking an active role in every phase of their children’s lives, and this is never more true than when their child has an autism spectrum diagnosis and is requiring special education services and supports in school.  The complexities of their children’s needs and the special education arena require dads to understand the basics and well beyond in order to truly be key players in the process.

“The Dad Dilemma: Your Child, Autism and Special Education” is a workshop for dads only being held in the Philadelphia area on June 26th and July 10th.  From understanding the language of special education to effective parent advocacy strategies, this interactive session will end the confusion that many dads feel and will replace it with information and actionable steps.  Dads should not have to struggle to “catch-up” to understand what’s happening with their children in school.

Information can be found at: http://www.education-navigation.com/fathersworkshop or by contacting us directly at 610-628-4456.

Questions Are The Way To Answers

Why are people so afraid to ask questions?  Is it because they don’t know the questions to ask, don’t want to hear the answers, or are reluctant to question people with expertise they may not have?

This isn’t being posed as something simply to consider, but is being directed to one particular group of people — working parents.  Not just any working parents, but those who have children who are struggling in some way and are receiving any type of services to support their needs.  While many working parents are truly desperate for knowledge, many are reluctant to open the door to access answers.  But before you say, “Hey…I ask plenty of questions,” allow me to elaborate.

With the new school year well underway, parents are already up to their necks in challenges particularly if they have a child with, for example, autism or a learning disability.  They are struggling to figure out what to do (i.e. what interventions or therapies are appropriate), who should do it (i.e. should they push for these services in school or secure them privately), and how to balance these ongoing needs with their other responsibilities (e.g. their workplace job and managing their families).  It’s a boatload of pressure any way you slice it.

But here’s where the “questions” issue comes to a head.  Parents are reluctant to ask the psychologist who just completed their child’s testing to explain the results in “lay language” that the parents can understand.  They are reluctant to ask the tutor to show them exactly what skills are being addressed, to ask their child’s teacher for data to support progress, and to ask the school district staff sitting around the table at their child’s IEP meeting to repeat things that are unclear or are not making sense.  Questions are not asked when answers are needed most.  Often times, it’s because parents see these people as “the experts,” therefore it would be — fill-in-the-blank — wrong, disrespectful, insulting, etc. to question them.  But isn’t this precisely how we learn?  By questioning people who may have insights we do not?  Yet what’s truly puzzling is this — if you take a similar scenario into the business arena, questions abound and the hesitation to ask is minimal.

I’d like to suggest that working parents take a new approach to their children and begin to view things like business.  In other words, ask yourself whether you’re getting a return on your investment.  The goal is to determine whether your time (often hours away from the office or reducing your work schedule) and resources (often tapping into savings or borrowing from family) are yielding positive results.  How do you know?  Questions and answers.

Working parents are mired in a “life mural” that requires unmatched work/life balance strategies.  This is particularly true when there is a child with special needs in their lives. So many parents find themselves overwhelmed yet fail to utilize the same strategies that they use in their jobs to manage their child’s needs.  Asking questions (even of “the experts”) and getting answers.  This approach yields powerful results … and isn’t this exactly what you’re looking for?

What’s Worse…Denial or Fear?

Any parent would tell you that there’s nothing worse than thinking or knowing that something is wrong with their child.  The questioning about what did *they* do (or not do), the concerns that perhaps they missed some earlier signs, the worries about the long-term issues that their child may face.  All are very real introspective questions that accompany parenting a struggling child — it simply goes with the territory.  Many have said that it equates to the stages of grief.   I get it because I, too, have been there.

But here’s the problem.  Over the past several weeks (and for years beforehand as well), I have spoken with more than a few parents who have rejected the notion that indeed, something is happening with their child in school and that further investigation via evaluations is needed.  One parent stated that he’s “just being lazy” while another parent said that “he just needs to focus better.”  Another told me that “there’s nothing wrong with her that less time on Facebook won’t fix” and another said that while her child has already been diagnosed, it’s really not what’s going on.

Is this denial or fear?  And does it really matter?  The answer is this — whether it takes two weeks or a year to mobilize, the longer the parents wait to do so, the tougher the path for their child.  We all know parents who kick-it into overdrive immediately, exhausting every possible resource to find answers.  We also know parents who take a “wait and see” approach, certainly understandable when the issues are unclear.  The problems emerge, however, when parents either conclude that whatever is happening is just a passing phase or that a “good talking to” or removing privileges will set the child on the right path.

That expression “it’s all about me” comes into play in spades in situations where a parent, because of denial or fear, fails to take action to help their struggling child succeed.  The parent is leading with their own feelings instead of stepping back and realizing that no…this is not about me but rather, it’s all about my child.

Each day of lost learning often snowballs into years of struggle.   What starts as a child’s inability to read aloud in 2nd Grade often becomes a teen’s inability to succeed in a high school public speaking class.  A middle school child without a single friend is a sign that something is amiss.  A child exhibiting troublesome behaviors is communicating that there is something wrong.  Parents need to pay attention and sweep their own feelings aside until the child’s struggles are evaluated and interventions are in place.

Acknowledging that your child is struggling isn’t easy.  But either is raising a child.  If you know, whether from seeing failing grades, the inability to complete homework, or mounting social and behavioral issues, that your child is not doing well at their job — i.e. school, fearing what it “could be” or denying what it “is” and not mobilizing just delays acknowledging the fact… something is wrong and it’s not going away.

Parenting is as difficult as it is rewarding.  No one prepares any of us for the “what if’s” that come along with raising a child from infancy to young adulthood.  Yet parents *are* parents because we have the life experience and wisdom to make the difficult choices and decisions.  We can handle it because we must.