Seeking Understanding

The special education experience and dyslexia diagnosis journey can be exciting, stressful, and daunting. I want to share what I have found to be helpful in my experience working with several different teams, families, and professionals. If you take one nugget of wisdom from this and apply it–whether you are a special education service provider or a parent–then our children will be the beneficiaries. Everyone has their own individual experience, and each team is nuanced in their challenges and successes.

Keep in Mind

  1. Everyone on the team shares the common goal of student success; and,
  2. Seek understanding. Consider where everyone on your team is coming from to facilitate more positive experiences for everyone on the team, including the student.

Showing empathy for parents seeking help for their child is crucial. Parents want their child to be successful in school, but may not always have the tools they need to achieve this goal. Although as a service provider, acronyms and special education procedures are ingrained in your brain as part of your job every day, parents may be walking into a review of data meeting without any background knowledge.

Parents may potentially harbor feelings of failure, inadequacy, and self-doubt. They may feel like they didn’t properly equip their child to be successful. They may also be surprised to find out that their child has been missing milestones or is behind academically. Sometimes their shock can be surprising to educators, but we have to remember that parents don’t know what they don’t know, and they don’t have the same background and experience as educators.

On the flip side, parents need to understand that service providers have limited time and resources. Schools may be underfunded and most service providers are overwhelmed with increasing demands from administration, high caseloads, staff shortages, and the ever-changing Covid protocols. They have limited resources due to poor funding and district restrictions. Understanding that service providers are doing the best they can with the time and resources they have can foster a healthier environment for the team.

To that end, “Help me understand….” is the sentence starter we all need to help parents ask service providers about special education procedures, why certain services are being recommended over others, what an acronym means, what the goal is targeting, or why their child is struggling in math. “Help me understand how the program you are using in your therapy is going to help my child decode,” opens a dialogue between the two sides. This can also help service providers understand parents’ concerns, their thought process, and what they value for their child’s education journey.

A teacher asking “Help me understand the thought process behind wanting to increase the speech service minutes,” supports a healthy exchange and can avoid parents feeling questioned and undervalued.

Using this approach may be the tool which smooths the dynamic and opens the door for partnering successfully. Reflect on a previous interaction with someone on your team and how you may have been able to promote better understanding had you used this technique–or how it could impact future interactions. This may become the best tool you use to support a child’s growth.

Red Square Pegs was established to empower dyslexics by embracing dyslexia through awareness and shared experiences and to be a symbol of acceptance, pride, and confidence.