“I feel like you're parenting us parents,” I said to Heather Wells in this month’s episode of the podcast.
Heather and I were talking about the principles you and I should apply when approaching our Wonderfully Wired child’s school and her wisdom made me feel mentored in the very best way.
Here are 5 Insights you can apply today
Choose wisely when you choose the school for your child
Heather advised that it’s a good idea to meet with the Head of the school so that you are able to gauge how committed the school is to enabling learning for Wonderfully Wired kids. “Don’t take on a battle you won’t win,” she urges. What you are looking for is a school whose message is “We might not always do everything you ask, but we will do our absolute best to do the best that we can”.
Build A Relationship
Your mission is collaboration with the school and collaboration works when a relationship exists rather than when demands are being made.
Jessical Lahaye, author of The Gift of Failure suggests that your first interaction with a teacher is always positive. Don’t rush in with demands or criticism on your first meeting. Understand, she suggests, the way that the teacher prefers to be contacted and respect them as a professional.
Find one person to advocate for your child. Spend time with him/her so that their understanding of your child and your family grows. That person can become an advocate for your child with other staff members as well as be the point person when you need to communicate when your child is particularly vulnerable.
Remember that schools have a range of personalities and accept that some teachers won’t just automatically gel with your child. Don’t assume what a teacher is like based on what you heard another parent say. People change and teachers respond differently to different students: Determine to give each teacher the benefit of the doubt with your child.
Finally, make the shared interest, learning, not grades or outcomes.
Bring to the table your expert knowledge of your child!
Many parents are intimidated by the authority represented in teachers and administrative staff. Choose to be brave and ditch the intimidation - teachers and administrators need your knowledge of your child to fill in the missing puzzle piece to unlock him/her.
Advocate for your child. Sometimes teachers and schools are busy and children in minorities get left behind not from ill intent but from lack of priority. Your persistent, respectful, brave advocacy is needed to keep your child a priority.
Don’t be bullish
Pick your battles - If you pick all the battles your effectiveness in winning any, will drop.
“Suck some things up” Heather says, "in favour of the longer wins for your child."
I feel my influence at my children’s school slide when I’m easily offended or always on the same soap box.
Much also depends on how we communicate concern to teachers. It’s ironic really because teachers can also feel intimidated by a knowledgeable parent’s bullish advocacy. Once a teacher feels you are implying they don’t know how to do their job you’ve lost an ally.
We tend to want things to change yesterday. Understand that change is a process. Most teachers received little training in neurodiversity but many good teachers are willing to learn in the context of a relationship and support from you.
Why not recommend Wonderfully Wired as a resource for a teacher, giving a subscription as a gift if they are interested, rather than as a message that they need education!
It’s a journey for your teachers. Even if they do know a lot about your child’s diagnosis they don’t know your child yet. Move at a pace that takes teachers with you on the journey.
If you haven’t had a chance to read Debbie Reber’s book Differently Wired, Raising an exceptional child in a conventional world, I urge you to get a copy! You can check out a brief summary of the book here to see why I feel Debbie’s work will really help parents like you and me. Listen to my conversation with Debbie in episode 3 of the Wonderfully Wired podcast Season 1.