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A Stay-at-Home Dad's Perspective on Parent Advocacy

Dad Advocate InterviewThe following is a transcription of the podcast, “Michael Kaczor on How to Be a Dad-vocate for Children with Learning Disabilities.”

What role should a father play in a home where one (or more) child has learning disabilities? How important is the dad’s voice and presence when meeting with school personnel? In this interview, dad-vocate and NCLD Parent Leader, Michael Kaczor shares a number of interesting tips. Michael is an Independent Master Advocate who works to ensure not only his son’s rights, but also the rights of students in various school districts and states.

Listen to similar interviews with two other fathers, also NCLD Parent Leaders

Karen Golembeski: My name is Karen Golembeski and I work for the National Center for Learning Disabilities. You are joining us for one part of our series on “Dad-vocates.” Today I have Michael Kaczor with me. And I'm going to ask Michael to introduce himself and give us a little bit of information about where he is from.

Michael Kaczor: Well, good morning, and thank you for having me. My name is Michael Kaczor and I am an Independent Master Advocate for children with disabilities in the state of New Mexico. And I also offer my services in Colorado and Kentucky.

I work at both the LEA (Local Educational Authority) and SEA (State Educational Authority) levels. I also work at the state level, in trying to pass legislation for children with dyslexia.

Karen Golembeski: Michael, thank you so much for joining us today. Let's start on our first question. For any number of reasons, moms tend to get the credit for most of the “heavy lifting” when it comes to supporting their children with learning disabilities at home and school. What roles do you think dads should play when it comes to the day-to-day routines for helping their children with learning disabilities to be successful at home and at school?

Michael Kaczor: Well, [helping their children with LD is one of] the greatest things dads can do. I like to define dads in two ways these days: there is the stay-at-home dad and then there is the at-work dad. And these days — with the workforce and the economy — there are a lot more stay-at-home dads. I was a stay-at-home dad myself. Being an adult with dyslexia, I had to raise my own son with dyslexia, which was one of my greatest joys ever.

Another role dads can play is to advocate for them, of course.

And the thing that dads can do to support moms who are staying at home, dealing with the school district day-in and day-out, is to make sure they attend all meetings with the mom. You really have to be flexible in your schedule so that the school district realizes you are unified force, because school districts do believe in “divide and conquer.” So make sure you’re a good team, you’re together, you discuss the issues, you know what you want for your child and you’re willing to stand up for it.

So support mom. Also listen to her, be a sounding board. She is learning a lot of stuff every day that she doesn’t necessarily want or need to know, so your support at home and listening to what’s going on [is important]. Another thing is helping with the kid’s academics, homework at night. Of course I don’t allow more than 10 minutes per grade (and that’s suggested). I suggest you do [the homework] too, but pick out some part of the homework that you like, some part that Mom likes, and support the child. And don’t forget to love all the other children at the same time, especially if you’re giving a bunch of attention to one child. So spread it around.

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