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Am I An Ambassador For Persons With Learning Disabilities?

Written by Written by Darla Hatton, Parent Contributor | May 9, 2011

It is true, when advocating for LDs, experts tell parents that we need to focus our priority on helping our child first. This philosophy has been very insightful and helpful in our determining and ranking priorities when trying to get help and advocate for my daughter.

Recently though, another situation helped me realize that the manner in which I advocate for my child could have far-reaching effects. I recently had the occasion to be speaking to a school psychologist who felt she had gone above and beyond to try to guide a parent to the inner workings of her district and provide some insights on how to best navigate the system to get the necessary resources for their child. Unfortunately, in this school psychologist’s opinion, the parent had hung her out to dry — and put her in a precarious position with her supervisors – because the parent not only revealed “off the record” information to the child’s teacher and principal, but also revealed its source, the aforementioned school psychologist. This scenario got me to thinking that how I relate to a particular teacher or professional with my own child could have far-reaching implications, for better or for worse, for the next child, the next parent, encountered by that same teacher or professional.

Navigating this journey into LDs can have a trajectory of its own. Overall, I think we as parents did a good job helping our daughter by creating positive relationships with school and district personnel, who helped my daughter first, but now I realize it may have also have left a good impression and foundation for the next parent and child with LDs, who would ultimately have to work with these same professionals. That is not to say that we were perfect. There were times when my emotions got the better of me, or when getting that last “zing” in felt really good for the moment, but looking back I really feel proudest and feel we accomplished the most when we were able to present our case in a logical, factual manner — when we honored our audience, and allowed the person we were dealing with the opportunity to save face and to keep their dignity. Ultimately, when we built positive relationships, we built for the future.

Now, I really hope that the aforementioned school psychologist will continue to step up above and beyond to help the next parent who comes to her for help — despite her perceived difficulty with this one situation. Her honesty with me, though, helped me perceive a much larger picture. It helped me appreciate that by honoring the relationships you develop with all parties, it not only helps your own child, but can also leave a positive impression for the next child who walks through those doors. In helping my child I have an opportunity to educate, to build relationships, and to leave a good impression — because while my child comes first — I can also use each interaction to lay a positive foundation for the next child, the next parent, that comes after mine — who will also have dealings with this teacher, this psychologist, district, etc. Even in the case of dealing with a difficult personality, we found that our child benefitted most when we remained kind and calm. Some of those who we originally perceived as the most challenging personalities, years later became our greatest advocates and allies.

One of the definitions in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines ambassador as follows: “an unofficial representative traveling abroad as an ambassador of goodwill.” Although, not traveling abroad, sometimes navigating the world of LDs can feel like visiting a foreign country. I now realize I do have an opportunity to, while advocating for my child first, also act as an unofficial representative of goodwill for persons with LDs. While still advocating for my child first, I will now also reflect on how I advocate being able to affirmatively answer the question, “Am I An Ambassador For Persons With LDs?”

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