Working Together - Parent Perspective

When a special needs child becomes a student at school, the role of parent expands. With many different people and levels in the education system, learning to work together benefits the student. I've had the privilege of facilitating parent panels which gave educators the opportunity to hear directly from parents their experiences of navigating the system. The following is the handout I created for participants.

We both play a valuable and distinct role in my child's life
  • requires effective communication system
  • share what is working
School is only a part of my child's day
  • extra disability supports
  • greater need for down time
  • regular kids activities
Life continues after graduation
  • parental hopes and dreams undergo continual readjustment
  • pacing for the long term
  • skills for life
  • maximize abilities by strengthening strengths
To receive supports, there must be demonstrated need
  • it is hard to focus only on my child's special needs
  • technical language can be confusing
  • my child behaves differently in different situations
Disability can be isolating
  • lack of supports for parents
  • hard to see my child left out
You are an important person in my child's life
  • 50 significant caregivers by age 18
  • Tremendous responsibility and trust
  • Potential to create a strong link in web of supports
Thank you for taking the time to listen to us as parents.

Click here to download a PDF version of this handout.

What else would you add to create a strong learning team?

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Unexpected Community

Lars and the Real Girl
Lars and the Real Girl (Image via
Watching a movie about a life sized doll ordered off the Internet was not where I expected to discover community. Yet in Lars and the Real Girl, community plays a central role as each character decides what to do about Bianca – the doll that Lars believes is real.Can Bianca come in for dinner? Lars' brother doesn't want to be associated with crazy. His sister-in-law, Karin, seems a bit more open. She asks what they can do to help, but recoils at the thought of letting Bianca borrow her clothes. It is a very personal request. Here is where Karin draws the line – Bianca doesn't have the same style. But Lars says Bianca doesn't care about stuff like that.The movie focuses on the community including Bianca so Lars can feel included, too. The community includes her for Lars. Lars, too, faces the challenge of valuing his doll. I think the most powerful moment is when Lars has to decide what he will do about Bianca. Will Lars accept that Bianca is part of the community, not owned by him?
Bianca had value because the people chose to give it to her - by giving her a job, volunteer positions and a social life. Bianca did nothing. However, I believe she gave the greatest gift in the movie. Bianca gave the community an opportunity to decide about Lars. To view him as other, or part of common humanity. To change to include him or reject him for being different. Choosing to give Bianca value created a place for Lars to belong. The choice of each individual affected the community as a whole.
Lars and the Real Girl demonstrates how what we value shapes our communities. Disability challenges others who find their value in their abilities. Finding identity in a relationship makes it too valuable, something to cling to for life until there is no life left. Finding value in what we own makes tackling poverty more difficult, even if it is simply lending clothes to a doll.

Where have you been valued by and in community?
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