This post highlights the incredible contribution dads can and are making, and to encourage each and every dad to work with their spouse or ex-wife to make the difference for their child.
For Mothers Day, my fellow Parent Advocate, Esther Falcetta, wrote an excellent blog post on Mother Knows Best. Two of my four children have learning disabilities, and over the last 15 years I have had the opportunity of working with thousands of mothers and fathers through the company my wife and I own (3D Learner), the Learning Disabilities Association (LDA), and the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD). The purpose of this article is to highlight the incredible contribution dads can and are making, and to encourage each and every dad to work with their spouse or ex-wife to make the difference for their child.
The three other dads on our NCLD Parent Advocates Team have made great sacrifices in their careers, by moving their families and by attending the critical meetings at schools. The three points I want to focus on in this article center around the need to set goals, align with the right professionals, and be sensitive to your child’s challenges, of which there might be many.
- Goal-setting, problem-solving and making things happen are skills that dads are good at. Your child and wife will benefit the most from these skills if you look at the big picture, help set bold goals, and are flexible on how they are achieved. Remember, your child has to buy into these goals and own them; if they are solely your goals, then only you are vested in them.
- Aligning with the right school-based and outside professionals is important and you want to be an involved and constructive team player, while still being focused on the goals.
- Your sensitivity to the challenges faced by your child, your wife, and your child’s teachers will accelerate the progress. While you or a sibling may have made it through school with hard work, the focus on standardized test success makes it much more difficult for the child with learning disabilities in 2011 than ever before. Your child will benefit immensely when you become a united team with your wife to help him/her succeed.
School-based meetings can be overwhelming even for the most talented moms. My wife and I have had cases reported where upwards of 8 school- and district-based personnel sat around the table at an Individual Education Plan (IEP) meeting with a mom, who found it difficult to make her case — even though she was capable of running a board meeting at her company. In that same scenario, we have seen dads attend, armed with data and prepared to discuss bolder goals, and the whole dynamic changes for the better.
Let me give you an example. Matt was an 8th grader and the school had told his mom that her son was reading on grade level. Mom had shared earlier that her son’s reading comprehension was not at grade level, but nothing had changed – her son was still behind. When dad came for the next meeting, the numbers were even worse, and the parents had data that showed their son’s reading comprehension was 4 years below grade level. Graphs can be very effective at illustrating the point.
The team then set a much more ambitious goal. My wife, a professional educator, says, “It is not fair, but when dads walk into the room, the whole conversation changes for the better.” I would add, as long as the dad is focused, goal-oriented, and collaborative, this approach wins.
Working as a team with both school-based personnel and outside professionals is critical. Schools do not tend to focus on learning differences, processing issues and anxiety concerns that often make the problems much more severe for the child with learning disabilities. Schools are also used to dads being adversarial. When dads are goal-oriented, positive, have data, and are collaborative, the conversation changes.
As a dad, the biggest lessons I learned were on the emotional side. We dads are problem solvers. When we see a problem, we like to offer a quick solution. Three warnings:
- Some times your child just needs to vent — let them do that, and really listen.
- Creating successes and friends outside of school can be even more important than academic successes. Being a part of something and being connected is far more important.
- Focus on doing what you can to support your child and your spouse, especially when the going gets tough. When your wife is struggling with your child, listen for a few moments, and if appropriate, offer to help — but present it nicely and show your flexibility to find a new way to explain the information. My wife and I have worked with many couples who were separated and it makes a huge difference academically and emotionally when both parents can keep the efforts focused on their child’s success.
To my fellow Parent Advocate dads Andy, Altaf, Mike and the millions of “Make The Difference Dads,” thank you. To all dads, let’s find a way to make an even greater difference in our child’s lives and let’s do it right.
Mark Halpert has been immersed in the world of learning disabilities for 20 years: first as the father of two children with learning disabilities, then his wife developed the 3D Learner Program (R) to help children with learning disabilities to improve their reading comprehension, test scores and more. Mark then joined 3D Learner and has been presenting nationwide.