[Azpac] An Open Letter to DSS Providers
JaneJarrow at aol.com
JaneJarrow at aol.com
Wed Aug 5 11:17:13 EDT 2009
(Please forgive the cross posts)
To all my (patient) colleagues...
I am writing this morning as a parent, not a service provider. I am going
to abuse my access to the network of dedicated service providers to share
some thoughts. Several weeks ago, I offered up a letter for you to share
with parents of incoming students. This time, I am writing directly to you.
Please file this under "for what it is worth" and feel free to share it
with folks as you wish.
Thanks for indulging me,
An Open Letter to DSS Providers
(subtitle - Confessions of a Helicopter Mom?)
In just two weeks, I move my daughter into the dormitory. How did this
happen? How did we get here? I have been reading a book that someone
recommended to me called Letting Go, It is written for parents who are preparing
to send their offspring off the college. Notice that I did not say “
preparing to send their children” NOR “preparing to send their students.” I
know my kid is no longer a “child,” but she will always be MY child. And
she isn't MY student - she is YOUR student (relax… not you, personally! She
- and I -- will not be showing up on your doorstep in two weeks!). I am
finding the book most helpful in letting me know that my
experience/feelings/fears are actually pretty run-of-the-mill.
I used to teach a class for graduate students entitled “Interviewing and
Counseling Parents of Children with Disabilities.” Recently, I have been
reflecting quite a bit on one of the most important insights I tried to convey
to my students. Parents of kids with disabilities have a hard time sorting
out whether the difficulties they are encountering are a function of the
disability or a function of parenting. I am finding that making the
distinction doesn't get any easier as my daughter moves along. Every time we
approach a new milestone (and leaving for college is certainly a boulder-sized
milestone!), there are lots of concerns, lots of issues to be discussed, and
lots of frenzied activity. Being in the middle of it makes it HARDER to
sort out, not easier. How much is about my only kid leaving home? How much
is about my kid-with-a-disability leaving home?
I am telling you this for two reasons. First, it strikes me that it is
conceivable that DSS providers may fall into the same trap when they interact
with parents. Can you always separate what is about the disability from
what is about moving into unfamiliar territory - fears that any parent would
express but that are amplified/altered by the presence of a disability? “
Helicopter parents” are a concern for your colleagues from the Dean of
Students to the campus cops. There is no need to take it personally when you are
confronted with a parent who stubbornly suggests an ongoing level of
involvement (for themselves or for you!) with the student with a disability that
you know to be inappropriate.
More to the point, I suppose, my message today is that if, in your role as
DSS provider, you find your interactions with parents like me to be… um…
trying (!), PLEASE BE PATIENT WITH US. This process of transition, of
letting go, of learning new rules, experiencing new settings - you go through this
every year and you go through it with multiple students every year. For us
parents, this is the first time. Even if it is a parent who has sent
older kids off to school successfully, letting go of THIS kid with a disability
is a new and different experience - BECAUSE of that disability. I am not
asking DSS providers to lose focus on the student end of things because you
are busy hand-holding the parents. The students are, and should be, your
primary concern. I am just hoping to remind you that while parents can be a
great pain and distraction to what is important for you (and the student),
they may BE in pain and be more than a little distracted.
Please be gentle.
(Still) Proud and (Still) Terrified Mom
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