As a special needs parent I often wonder whether people listen with the intent to understand, or do they listen to answer before processing the information that is being shared?
An example of a response where there was no intent to “listen to understand” was when I shared a link to Hearing Happiness in a class group recently. The intention behind this was to allow for some insight into my son’s needs within the school environment, also enabling parents to better understand should any of their children ask them questions.
The very first response however, was about the “rules” and questioning why none school related matters were being shared in the group. This response took me by surprise and I preferred to go with the “well, she obviously did NOT read the post” thought.
This response had me questioning whether the group was a “NEED to be part of, or, NICE to be part of” group for me as a parent.
That morning I left the group.
I left the group because it was a NICE to be part of. All the information relevant to school news could be found in the message book or School Communicator or the website or through a quick message to/from another parent.
If you’ve followed my blog then you will know that I am a special needs parent who only a couple of months ago found her perfect puzzle piece and the biggest challenge I have is communication. I find that sometimes people listen with the intent to object to a request before even giving it any thought. Engaging is so much harder because I constantly feel like I need to convince those around me to understand what they cannot see.
I find being a parent of a child in a mainstream school more challenging each year, especially when I am reminded, during meetings, of the 29 other children in the classroom or 120 other children in the grade. A fact that I am fully aware of every single day, a fact that makes it even more difficult when I have to ask for accommodations for my son! This kind of response comes across as dismissive, one that implies that I have unrealistic expectations when all I’m asking for is a conscious awareness of the challenges and possible ways to accommodate and support.
Sometimes what seems insurmountable is in fact a lot easier when you embrace a relationship with a determined parent who will stop at nothing to ensure the inclusion of their child, with the reasonable accommodations that they are entitled to.
I am a strong advocate for my son and therein lies some of the challenges I face when it comes to developing relationships in the best interest of my child. Sometimes easier said than done, because it can result in me becoming that parent that people prefer to not engage with.
I do however want to let you all know that I am optimistic about the 2017 school year, and if you are an educator of a special needs child then I want to encourage you to embrace a relationship with the parent of that child. Remember that you are their lifeline, their person on the inside.