With four on-their-way-to-being-independent children, a more than full-time job, and a calendar filled with community and faith-based activities, I often have little time to reflect on all the things that really matter the most and that I know I shouldn’t take for granted. Among these things is a regular infusion of email from my parents who, well into their 80s, never miss an opportunity to include me in their email traffic. (Active octogenarian emailers — how’s that for a blessing!) Okay, I admit that most of these items get nothing more than a perfunctory glance before I hit “delete,” but for some reason, the title of one recent message caught my eye. It read, “Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good”… and I read on.
The items below are based upon some of the words of wisdom contained in that email. They struck me as being so well-suited to the challenges faced by parents, families, individuals with learning disabilities (LD), and others who work to support the well-being of the LD community. Thanks Mom and Dad, and keep those emails coming!
Life isn't fair, but it's still good. Don’t allow yourself to be consumed by the things that LD makes it hard for your child to do. Recognize and celebrate their strengths and abilities (even gifts), and remember: LD is what they have, not who they are.
When in doubt, just take the next small step. Making decisions about whether or not to initiate an evaluation, how to choose an instructional strategy, how to share concerns and disappointments about your child’s progress, …whatever the concern, don’t assume a passive posture and wait for the feeling to pass. Trust your instincts and don’t wait. Gather information, reach out to others, and begin the process of finding a solution.
Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. It’s human nature to try to escape from feelings that make us uncomfortable, and feeling helpless and out of control when it comes to our children’s happiness, whether it’s in school or on the ball field, is no exception. All too often, parents jump and assign blame to school personnel for their child’s lack of progress when, in fact, educators are feeling the same frustration. Be a partner with school personnel and bring your ideas and energy to the table. And don’t wait for someone else to call a meeting… Be proactive, be informed, be confident, but don’t be angry.
You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree. When it comes to LD, there is no sure-fire guarantee that any one strategy will work. Sure there are some approaches, especially in the area of reading instruction, that have the weight of more than 30 years of research behind them, and it would be foolish not to put up a fight if other, unproven approaches were being recommended. When disagreement happen, be a good listener, document and share your concerns, and set a timeline to have your issues revisited. This goes for a school-based meeting as well as a promise from your child that they will clean their room or review for a spelling test. And at a certain point (and you’ll know when this is) it is altogether reasonable to dig in your heels and say “no.”
When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile. No, this is not really about chocolate… it’s about making sure that you don’t forget to attend to your own needs. Parents are people too, and without the attention and support you need and deserve, the challenges of worrying about your child’s struggles with LD 365/24/7 can take a toll on your attitude (and sanity!). Make time for exercise and relaxation, treat yourself to special time with a spouse or partner, down time with friends, and just plain fun time with your child. (And sure, go for that chocolate.)
Any other items to add to this list? Please share your ideas below!