Tag Archives: emotions

Podcast: Emotions Part 6 – Parents’ Employers & Co-Workers

On November 19, 2008, we originally published “Emotions Part 6 – Parents’ Employers & Co-Workers” as the sixth in a series of text-only blog articles. As we begin to move into the new school year, KPS4Parents will be recording many of our past text-only articles as podcasts so that busy parents, educators, and interested taxpayers can download them and listen to them at their convenience.

As always, feel free to comment on our content. We appreciate the input of our readers and listeners to bring you the information you seek. You can either comment below or email us at info@kps4parents.org.

Click here to download the podcast  Emotions Part 6 – Parents’ Employers & Co-Workers.”

Podcast: Emotions Part 5 – Extended Family

On November 17, 2008, we originally published  Emotions Part 5  Extended Family  as the fifth in a series of text-only blog articles. As we begin to move into the new school year, KPS4Parents will be recording many of our past text-only articles as podcasts so that busy parents, educators, and interested taxpayers can download them and listen to them at their convenience.

As always, feel free to comment on our content. We appreciate the input of our readers and listeners to bring you the information you seek. You can either comment below or email us at info@kps4parents.org.

Click here to download the podcast “Emotions Part 5 – Extended Family.”

Podcast: Emotions Part 4 – Students

On November 16, 2008, we originally published  Emotions Part 4   Students  as the fourth in a series of text-only blog articles. As we begin to move into the new school year, KPS4Parents will be recording many of our past text-only articles as podcasts so that busy parents, educators, and interested taxpayers can download them and listen to them at their convenience.

As always, feel free to comment on our content. We appreciate the input of our readers and listeners to bring you the information you seek. You can either comment below or email us at info@kps4parents.org.

Click here to download the podcast “Emotions Part 4 – Students.”

Podcast: Emotions Part 3 – Administrators

On November 15, 2008, we originally published  Emotions Part 3   Administrators  as the third in a series of text-only blog articles. As we begin to move into the new school year, KPS4Parents will be recording many of our past text-only articles as podcasts so that busy parents, educators, and interested taxpayers can download them and listen to them at their convenience.

As always, feel free to comment on our content. We appreciate the input of our readers and listeners to bring you the information you seek. You can either comment below or email us at info@kps4parents.org.

Click Here to download the podcast,  Emotions Part 3   Administrators.

Podcast: Emotions Part 2 – School Site Staff

On November 14, 2008, we originally published  Emotions Part 2   School Site Staff as the second in a series of text-only blog articles. As we begin to move into the new school year, KPS4Parents will be recording many of our past text-only articles as podcasts so that busy parents, educators, and interested taxpayers can download them and listen to them at their convenience.

As always, feel free to comment on our content. We appreciate the input of our readers and listeners to bring you the information you seek. You can either comment below or email us at info@kps4parents.org.

Click Here to download the podcast,  Emotions Part 2   School Site Staff.

Emotions Part 6 – Parents’ Employers & Co-Workers

I think it’s really, really important to look at the impact that special education non-compliance has on parents’ employers and co-workers. There doesn’t seem to be any research being conducted on this (at least none that I could find – if you know of any, please post a comment with more information). But, I know from talking to the hundreds of parents we’ve represented and provided with consultation that employers are hit very hard by special education issues – employees having to take off all kinds of time from work to contend with problems at school, employees making careless mistakes at work because they’re so pre-occupied with the problems their children are having in school that they aren’t thinking about what they’re doing, and employees who are so emotionally overwrought by what they’re going through that they become a morale problem for their whole department or even the whole company and other people are starting to complain.

 

Nobody ever talks about this and I don’t know why. It happens all the time and it’s not okay. Parents end up having to quit their jobs or get fired because their job performance is affected by the problems they are dealing with at their kids’ schools. There are things these parents probably don’t know that are hurting them and their children. Employers should be aware of these things, too, and be sympathetic to the fact that these things aren’t being advertised by the public schools and most parents have no idea of their protections. Here are some important things for employers and parent-employees to know.

 

IEP meetings must be held at mutually agreeable times and locations. Federal law mandates that local education agencies do everything they can to facilitate a parent’s meaningful participation in the IEP process.They can’t have the meeting without the parent unless they can show that they tried every way they could to get the parent to attend and the parent either simply refused to go or could not be located.

 

 
If the school is arbitrarily assigning IEP meeting times without first finding out if the date and time are mutually agreeable to the parents, and it isn’t mutually agreeable?, the parent has the right to reschedule to a time that will work for everyone. [34 CFR ? 300.322] When it comes to scheduling IEP meetings, it’s within reason to hold the IEP meeting during the parent’s noon lunch break, but it’s not within reason for a parent who works graveyard to expect the IEP team to convene at 2am right after he/she has gotten off of work. 

 

It is not okay for the school to call parents to pick up their kids and take them home because they are “having a bad day”. This often happens with children who have social skills deficits and problem behaviors. If a special education student has behaviors that interfere with learning that arise from?or are influenced by his/her disabilties, the local education agency is obligated to address them as part of the child’s IEP.

 

A functional analysis of the child’s behavior may need to be done to collect the data necessary to write appropriate behavioral goals, develop a positive behavior intervention plan, and determine the services necessary to support the goals and the behavior plan. [34 CFR 300.530]? The school can’t just call once the child has been at school long enough for the local education agency to get paid for the child’s attendance for the day and tell the parents to come pick the child up because he/she is “having a bad day.”  The child is difficult to serve and the local education agency just doesn’t want to?have to work that hard.   This happens all the time, but it’s unlawful.

I’ve worked with parents who lost their jobs because they had to keep going to pick up their kids from school for “having bad days” and take them home for the rest of the day. These kids weren’t suspended.They weren’t expelled. Their schools got paid for a full day’s attendance for each day they were in school long enough. In my experience, these kids usually end up getting sent home around 10:30am.

 

Unless a child is being suspended or is ill, the school can’t send him/her home. (I’ve seen children sent home for “fevers” they really didn’t have because staff just didn’t want to deal with them that day, though, so parents may need to verify the presence of any mystery illnesses for which they’re being called away from work to respond before actually taking the child home.) The point is that the behaviors are part of the problem the school is supposed to be addressing and parents shouldn’t be losing their jobs because public servants aren’t doing theirs.

 

I don’t say it that way to be crass. II’m using this language very literally. Public education employees are public servants, just like police officers, firefighters, city clerks, and librarians in public libraries. The taxpaying public has hired them to attend to the educational needs of the community’s children. They work for the local constituency. So, it always baffles me that some education agency administrators take a superior tone with parents and act like they’re doing the parents a favor when they do things they were already supposed to do. Sadly, a lot of parents submit to that kind of bullying behavior. Which brings me to the next important thing to know:

 

Parents can get really upset by difficulties they are having with their children’s schools. They can’t necessarily check those emotions at the door when they go to work and employers may need to consider bringing in an industrial psychologist if the situation in the workplace becomes too emotionally toxic. Productivity on the whole can be impacted when a critical employee is so overwrought that his/her job performance becomes poor.

 

Other people relying on a distressed parent to do his/her share of a project are put in very difficult positions when they are left correcting the distressed parent’s mistakes, listening to the distressed parent complain or cry (or both) instead of work, and covering for the parent while he/she is at school instead of at work. This is usually when a decision gets made about whether such a parent will remain an employee.
 

It is situations like these that compelled KPS4Parents to put together a service offering to employers where we can come in and consult with an HR department or business owner about a specific situation and then consult with the parent regarding his/her rights and what the parent can do to solve the problems they’re having (we’ve done this mostly with smaller businesses) and conduct employee trainings on special education-related issues (which we’ve done with large employers).

 

As the rate of autism continues to increase, now currently at the rate of 1 out of 144 children according to some sources, employers can no longer afford to think these issues don’t impact them. Any company that employs 10 people who are parents is all but guaranteed to have at least one parent among the 10 who has a child with some type of handicapping condition, and quite possibly more.  Autism is just one of a countless number of disorders that children can have. Employers need to educate themselves on this issue now because it’s going to become a righteous HR problem before they know it, if it hasn’t started to become one already. Resources need to be developed to help employers contend with the increasing number of parents amongst their employees who have children with special needs.  As much as KPS4Parents does to try to tackle this issue, this is one of those things that everyone needs to be doing something about. There’s only so much we can do by ourselves and we need your help to tackle these problem.

 

Our country is already in enough financial hot water. Businesses cannot afford to suffer otherwise preventable losses in productivity and declines in employee morale, right now. The business community is suffering horrendously already as it is with the financial sector practically falling apart at the seams. More and more businesses are leaving the country for places where the barriers to entry are not as great and the costs of operation are much lower. More and more good jobs have been outsourced to overseas workers and businesses are finding that they can’t afford to hire local talent. For many businesses, the only reason they are able to exist is because they have outsourced work overseas at a fraction of what it would have cost them to hire local talent. To suffer additional losses at a time like this could be the difference between being in business tomorrow or not. To suffer additional losses at a time like this when those losses could have been avoided calls an organization’s stewardship into question.

 

The business community has a vested interest in making sure that the public schools are able to deliver what is required to all of their students. That means that the business community should be doing what it can to make sure public schools have what they need while holding the public schools accountable for utilizing its resources, particularly those donated by the business community, to properly deliver special education services to the community’s children with disabilities.

 

I’d love to see Chambers of Commerce and industry-specific associations hosting parent education nights for their members’ employees who are parents of children with special needs. The more the parents know, the more they can get resolved without impacting their job performances. Once their issues with the schools have been resolved, these more emotionally grounded, focused workers can become even more productive. Never underestimate the power of parents finally overcoming what seemed insurmountable and finally feeling like their child is going to be okay. The concurrent senses of relief and accomplishment are esteem-boosting and can actually lead to improvements in employee performance. I’ve seen parents go on to do amazing things professionally after finally resolving their kids’ special education issues.

Emotions Part 5 – Extended Family

The immediate family (parents and siblings) of a child with disabilities are generally the people we think are the most impacted by a child’s handicapping condition, aside from the child him- or herself. But, as with a pebble tossed into calm waters, there are ripples that travel outward in every direction, disturbing the calm of whoever is in their paths.

One of the challenges I’ve encountered as an advocate over the last 17+ years has been grandparents and other older extended family members who don’t understand or believe in learning disabilities. Largely, what has really been going on is very powerful denial. These elders don’t want to believe that such things exist because that could mean that the child could really have them and they don’t want to believe that, so they decide that the whole idea of learning disabilities is hogwash. I haven’t seen so much of this mentality lately. It was really prevalent in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

You have to bear in mind that, back in the day, no one knew about learning disabilities?or a whole lot of other disabilities that can compromise children’s success in school for that matter. If you looked okay, then you must be capable of achieving in school. Otherwise, you were just lazy. 

Older folks sometimes limit their comprehension of what it means to have a disability to physically observable things, such as being in a wheelchair or having obvious physical attributes as with Down’s Syndrome. When told that their grandchild has ADHD, they might respond that he’s just undisciplined. When told that their grandchild has dyslexia, he just isn’t trying hard enough. What is often really going on beneath the surface is that they take labels like “learning disabled” and translate them to mean “retarded.”

Getting through to them that the disorders are in no way alike (and even if they are, so what?) depends on who they are as people. Some folks are just stubborn and aren’t going to hear anything you say. Others just need to be educated on the subject and are totally open to new information.

As with parents when they first find out that their child has a disability, extended family members can first go into a stage of denial. There has to be a mistake! Each person moves through the phases at their own rate. Some get stuck at a phase and never quite move out of it. Eventually, those who move through all the phases without getting stuck will arrive at acceptance and start to recognize the symptoms and behaviors that make it clear that the child does have some kind of disability. At that point, these extended family members are in a position to respond to the situation most appropriately.

Family feuds can erupt over a child with special needs. Disagreements can arise not over just whether or not the child is disabled, but what to do about it.? Some family members may say “Don’t make waves!” while others may say “Give ’em hell!” Some extended family members may choose to shun the child and his/her immediate family because they feel uncomfortable around the child with special needs, while others embrace the child with open arms. 

Some extended family members will commit personal resources to addressing the child’s needs. I can’t tell you how many grandparents I’ve encountered who have personally financed private tutors and therapies and given hours and hours a week of their time shuttling their grandchildren with special needs to appointments and sessions. That goes for aunts, uncles, and close family friends, as well.

But, I’ve seen nuclear families pretty much going it alone, as well. Their extended families are not that close and don’t feel comfortable getting involved. This is particularly heartbreaking with single parent households where just the one parent is the only adult in the child’s life looking out to see that the child gets what he/she needs.

Extended family members who do get involved experience a wide variety of emotions. This is particularly the case with older extended family members who worry if the family will be able to collectively support the child’s needs, including covering the costs of things that should be, but have not been, provided by publicly funded agencies and programs.

Just babysitting for a child with severe autism, for example, can be exhausting. For older family members who may not be as healthy or physically fit as they once were, it is physically and emotionally draining to experience and witness just how much work is required to parent and educate a child with such demanding needs. For those with declining health, this can lead to a sense of powerlessness or even hopelessness, particularly if they are watching the younger, less-experienced-in-life parents of the child struggling to achieve appropriate services from the responsible agencies. Most often, the prevailing emotion on the part of these older family members is worry.

But, extended family isn’t limited to older family members. It also includes aunts, uncles, and cousins who collectively range in age from infancy to elderliness. For extended family members the same age as a child’s parents, these people are often raising families of their own and/or pursuing careers. Their plates are already full. They can easily become emotionally as well as physically unavailable to help out the parents of the child with disability. But, some families are stronger than others. I’ve seen the rallying together that can still happen in an extended family of the busiest people you can imagine. They can be very efficient in their division of the labor with everyone doing what they can in a way that creates a really solid support system.

All extended families are different, to be sure. Public education professionals need to pay a mindful eye to the type of support system a family has. While children with disabilities are entitled to a wide variety of services and supports, each child’s programming based on his/her unique needs, there is nothing that obligates a family to accept all that it is entitled to. I work with families who decline county mental health medication management services even though they were offered because they already have a prescribing psychiatrist who has been working with their child for years under their private insurance and don’t want to start over after all those years with someone new who doesn’t know their child. But, some nuclear families have little to no support from their extended families and are of limited means. They are, therefore, almost entirely dependent upon the public funded agencies and programs that exist to provide services to their children. 

Public school personnel should never take it for granted that just because a family may seem able to privately finance services, that doesn’t mean that it actually can or will. I’ve gone into school districts in affluent neighborhoods where special education is spoken of by school personnel as though it is a welfare program for the poor and severely handicapped. Parents of children with learning disabilities and the like are told their children are not eligible for special education and parents are given a list of tutors they can hire at private expense to help their kids on the side, which they do. My problem with that is not that wealthy people are paying for tutors they can usually well afford, but that they were put in that position through deceit and manipulation by people collecting paychecks from the taxpaying public. When it comes to special education, a citizen is a citizen and the system is supposed to be there for everyone, regardless of socio-economic status.

When families are able to offer, knowing they don’t have to, to provide a portion of a child’s entitled program at private expense, the involved public agencies are usually pretty appreciative and will do all they can to fill in the remaining holes. It’s when public agencies mislead families into thinking that such services can only be obtained privately or simply refuse to pay for them regardless of what the families know of their rights, particularly when those families don’t have the resources to pay for them, that I’m in hot pursuit of reimbursement and/or the public funding of such programs.

It’s important for families to support each other as best as they can. For those of you who are parents of children with special needs, take some time to think about your own extended family and the type of support system you have and where it could be strengthened. The more emotionally healthy your family is, the better the support system in place for your child with special needs and you. The better your personal support system is, the more you are able to contend with any challenges you encounter along the way as you parent and advocate for your child.