It Is The Process That Leads Directly To The Product
When I was doing Early Childhood in my past life my motto and words I lived by were, “It is the Process not the Product that counts”.
As a parent and professional in the Special Education field, what I often hear is “I don’t understand the process” and “I am exhausted from the process and all the work I am doing on behalf of my child”. These words have been said so often these days over the phone, at workshops and from friend to friend. If you weren’t tired I’d have to question whether you were in the process or just expecting the product to happen. The Product I am referring to is Positive Adult Outcomes or Meaningful Progress from year to year which is the intent of the all children’s school career with a disability or without. In order to get this positive outcome or product you have to know the process and work through the process. You have to have a sense of having the end in mind. When I refer to The Process this is our ability to gain knowledge and understanding of General Education requirements, 504 Plans, Special Education – Individualized Education Plans and the laws and intent that govern.
I’d be lying if I said raising a child with a disability of any kind is easy. For that matter raising a child is never easy. It takes work, patience, love, support, belief, trust, family, friends, community, schools, money, knowledge of resources and on and on and on.
All of these listed here are not only about your child, they are about yourself and those who work with and on behalf of your children. The system brings both good and bad and each day is a testament of a parent’s resilience. My resilience is sometimes over flowing one day and completely diminished another. I get back up on those bad days and dust myself off and continue on because without the process I wouldn’t have a direction or a way to push for appropriate supports for my children.
On the outside, I like many I know look all put together saying the right things, knowing many of the answers, helping one another to understand the process and challenging us all to push harder, expect more and do so with grace. On the inside many of us are always questioning the decisions we’ve made in the past and today. Was it the right choice? Should I have stayed in this placement? Why didn’t I ask that question? Maybe I should have tried this…. We are human; we are a parent so we have emotions, doubt, quilt, grief… just as all humans do.
Making mistakes and learning from them is part of the process. I have always referred to the mistakes I have made along the way and there have been many as “Learning Experiences”. Mistakes are what we learn from and build upon. I for one usually never make the same mistake twice. We can’t go back. It isn’t healthy to be stuck on the past or what could have been or what went wrong or what injustice has been done. We have to pick ourselves up, dust off and keep moving forward. When we move forward we continue to work with the process and challenge the process to do better.
When we get stuck often times we feel as thou we have been a target of some corruption or hidden agenda. Perhaps we truly don’t yet understand the process in which we are immersed. We need to reflect on why we didn’t get what we asked for on behalf of our child. Is it truly a need? Did we have the right information to prove our request? Do we need to request additional evaluations to prove the service is needed? Is it an unreasonable request? Do I fully understand my child’s disability? Is it the schools responsibility to provide that or mine as the parent? Do I want it or does my child really need it? What could I have negotiated on instead of not getting anything I felt was appropriate for my child? Do I, the parent, need to attend a workshop or training to help me understand the process better? Do I need to talk to a friend or a professional? Reflection can show us a different way and allow us to see where our mistakes are as well as what we need to do to make it better.
When we blame and target schools and professionals and get stuck, we do more harm than good. When we are blamed or our child is blamed by schools and professionals we get defensive. I often work with families where this is occurring. My advice is to put it back on the needs of the child. Help professionals to understand it isn’t a bad kid they are looking at but rather it is due to the disability. What they are seeing is a need; the child is trying to tell us something. Education of a child’s disability and how it impacts them and their school day is essential to providing appropriate supports and services. We must as parents remember not to get stuck on what the school did to us or how they treated us which can easily become the “it’s us against them mentality”. Rather, how are we going to make it better, move past, and build a collaborative relationship back up? It is always about the child and we need to also help schools and professionals to also understand it is not about them but, it is about the child – our child!
I don’t have a magic wand that will explain and teach the process and how to navigate it. Reaching out to UNYFEAT by attending the Speaker Series, Connections Parent Support Group meetings, accessing and asking questions on the Yahoo Message Board, attending monthly meet-ups and recreations activities will all enable you to meet and talk with other parents who are also navigating the process and together you will be able to educate and learn from one another. Another resource in our community is The Advocacy Center which offers free support to families to help understand the process. These offerings include but are not limited to workshops, Lay Advocacy, Partners in Policy Making, newsletter, Ask the Advocate open forums, phone assistance… You can learn more about what both offer by visiting www.unyfeat.org and www.advocacycenter.com
Remember it is the process that directly leads to the positive adult outcomes of your children. Joined together with a common goal we help many!
I wish you the best in the process,
Julie Buick, Parent and Advocate to Billy, Bobby and Kathleen
UNYFEAT’s Vice President of Advocacy