Monday, August 27, 2012

First Day of School

Ben and Logan had their first day of school today. Sean starts on Thursday for staggered entry for Pre-K students. Ben's bus was too late for us to wait for it, so after 50 minutes of waiting impatiently, I drove him to school. It was so easy, it made me think about making that one mile drive each day.

This year, I am trying out a new plan. I will pick Ben up from school at 3:15pm every day to give him  time to eat and use the bathroom before therapy. In years past, it has been a mad rush to get everything done and if the bus was late, it was stressful. Logan and Sean need to be picked up at the same time Ben is "supposed" to get off the bus. By doing it this way, Ben will get to walk with me to Logan and Sean's school to pick them up. I think he will enjoy being a part of this ritual.

Hope all goes well for your first days of school!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Bury the Hatchet

During a conversation with another parent yesterday about the best way to work with the teachers and principal at Ben's school, she said that she was ready to "do battle." I was glad we were talking on the phone because she could not see my reaction to her declaration. I vehemently disagree with this method of advocating for your child. Using a fighting mentality to get what you want for your child may only get you a reputation for being a difficult parent, that could potentially follow you around from school to school and agency to agency. (The special education/exceptional child field is small.) The results may be that your child's needs are never met.

Here are a few ideas that came to mind as I thought about this situation with this mom and how she discussed her relationship with the school and the roadblocks she encountered. Hopefully, you may be able to put a few of these to good use:

Be an advocate.
When I looked up the definition for "advocate" and then "child advocate", I saw two very different definitions. Words like argue, plead, and defend were prevalent in the definitions for advocate, while child advocate was defined by promote the optimal development of children and engaging.

All parents are advocates for their children. To promote optimal development, parents need to build a group of advocates for their child and the school personnel are an important part of this team. By looking at them as the enemy with whom to do battle, you are alienating a group of people who are vital to the education process. Going this alone is not the way to help your child.

Build a partnership.
If you think of the teachers, assistants, therapists and administrative staff as people who you need to build long lasting relationships with, your approach may be different. If your approach is gentle and firm, smart and helpful, the people who see your child each day, will respond positively to your child's needs.

Think of each person you meet as someone who you want to know for years to come, and who wants to know you and your child too. It could become a friendship, but at the very least, it is a partnership.

Offer assistance and give it.
The best way to show that you are serious about getting the best for your child is to offer your help. Volunteer to work in the classroom, on the PTA board or if that is too much for you, ask if there is something to work on while you are at home. Stapling forms could help so much and be an easy task for you while watching TV.

Meet with the key players.
New principal or teacher? Ask to meet them one-on-one. Find out about their strengths, history and experience. Learn about how they view the future of your child, the classroom and the school. What is important to them? How can you help them meet their goals while meeting your own?

The word advocate may imply that as the parent we do all the talking. This is not the case. As my four-year old says, "Turn on your listening ears." Find out what is being said and what is not being said. The stronger the partnership, the more honest the feedback and information you will receive.

Be realistic with expectations.
Be realistic with expectations about your child, yourself and the school. Take a long look at what you are asking for and make sure you are asking for the right things at the right time. Draw up a list so you can review what is most important. Take off the items that can wait. If you go into any situation asking for the moon, you may get nothing. If you go in asking for your top three items, you may be more likely to get your child what they need.

Shout out the positives, Review the negatives.
Have you heard of the sandwich method? It is a way to give feedback to an employee during a performance evaluation. Start with the good things, add the negative in the middle, and then end with more positive points.

If you have solutions for the areas that need improvement, then offer them up. If you can volunteer to be a part of those solutions, even better. If you want more communication coming from the school, offer to coordinate a newsletter. If you want better materials in the classroom, offer to find a way to get them.

School starts in the next few weeks - think long and hard about what your approach will be: Do you have your armour on and axe in hand? Do you come in with an olive branch and open arms? I cannot tell you what will work best in your situation, only to evaluate yourself honestly and then make changes accordingly.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pay It Forward, Again

There are not many times when Ryan and I are both left speechless, but it happened one evening when we were out to dinner with the boys. It was our last night at the beach and a thunderstorm was threatening to hit. We chose the covered porch area because the wait for an inside table was over 30 minutes long. I realized too late that the outdoor dining also served as the smokers' hangout.

With the Olympics playing on the TV, the big storm hovering above and three rambunctious boys, conversation with the revolving door of smokers came easy. Our food took awhile to arrive and Ben became fiercely hungry. Ben's mood was not at its best - he was tired and hungry, never a good combination for anyone. One of the quieter smokers brought us out popcorn. He mentioned that things were a bit slow in the kitchen. We thanked him, and assumed he was an owner.

After we ate a delicious dinner, the waitress came over to tell us that our bill had been paid. My husband tried to guess who our thoughtful patron was, and finally on the third guess, he was correct. It was the man who brought us the popcorn and to our surprise, he was not the restaurant's owner.

I always look to Ryan for the best way to handle situations like this - do we go in and thank the man? Do we leave without saying anything? We agreed to write a note to him and leave it with the waitress, but before we left, he came back out to smoke. I gave him the note and personally thanked him. As Ryan walked out, the man commented on Ryan's patience.

I always wonder what we look like to outsiders - to some crazy, to others patient. I am sure there are a whole host of other adjectives in between. I am not sure what motivated this quiet man to help us out, but he saw something and he acted on it. It made our night very special. An ordinary dinner turned into something we will remember forever.

** Pay It Forward - May 2010

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Why Not?

Oscar and kid, photo by Andy Hooper
I believe Andy Cooper deserves credit for this photo.

This is Oscar Pistorius of South Africa.  The little girl is five year old Ellie. As the story goes, she raced Oscar four times and won each time. I know controversy surrounded Pistorius's participation in the Olympics. I did not know much about his story, but I believed he should have the opportunity. After hearing him speak after one of the semi-finals and then seeing this, I am confident in my support. 

With technology changing and opportunities being made possible, why not be inclusive?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Jumper's High

Adrenaline Rush, Endorphin Spike, or perhaps Olympic Envy -  whatever it was, I have a new love for Jumping Pillows.

There were moments of fear - especially when my brother or husband decided to jump within inches of me. For the most part, it was like flying (with a safety bubble underneath me).

Photo credit goes to my brother-in-law, Steve, who was very patient with me and my camera.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Off the Beaten Path

On impulse we followed signs directing us to this covered bridge. We traveled through twelve miles of winding countryside and worried if we would ever find our way back to the main road.

We were skeptical, but were rewarded with a break from our long road trip. The stream with rocks and short walking path were enough to rejuvenate us for the hours to come.

Is there a life lesson here? 
Wandering can sometimes be what we need at the moment.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Did Someone Say Beach?

Ben's favorite place to be.

Ever heard of the sea turtles who lay their eggs on the beach and then head back to the sea. Ben's technique reminded us of those beautiful creatures.

If we did not stop him, Ben would have kept going and going.

When Ben was not in the water, this is what he looked like...

We used the Landeez Chair again. The lifeguards and staff at this beach were so helpful in making sure we knew we could use it for Ben and even offered to put one aside for the next day. It made traveling on the sand easy.