How does one remain focused when choosing the direction in which to expend one’s energy? As much as you might want to take on all comers and issues, there simply is not enough time or energy to do everything. So what must be done is to prioritize what can be actually addressed. I have always utilized a series of questions when doing this.
If the answer to any of the following five questions is, “No,” then I consider whether to simply move on:
- Does the issue directly impact me?
- Can I do anything to change it?
- If I do effect change, will it have a positive outcome?
- Is the change sustainable?
- Can the change become systemic?
As a parent, I often found myself exerting extreme amounts of energy trying to deal with too many things at once, at a cost to both my well-being and that of my family. As well-meaning as one’s intentions might be, the ultimate cost can be too great. When I first started on this journey, I read an inspirational poem that illustrated to me that whatever I could contribute would still matter.
I often wonder how it is that conflict in the IEP process still exists today. IEP Team members coming to the table prepared to fight may have been necessary at one point in the past, but after all this time and litigation there is very little that has not been defined through either the complaint process or by court rulings. One must only look to the emotions that are part of being a parent of a child with disabilities for the answer. Dealing with these emotions on a daily basis can leave some parents feeling somewhat impatient with others who will never know first-hand, the intensity of feelings that parents experience and the impact that those emotions can have.
So when fighting and slaying dragons, we may be fighting issues or creating adversarial relationships based on perceptions from myths that in reality do not exist.
By establishing clear communication between themselves and school personnel, parents may dispel those myths of fire-breathing dragons. http://www.parentcenterhub.org/repository/letterwriting/
Even if they can only “agree to disagree,” there is no need to sever all communication and declare open season on dragons. In the world of advocacy, establishing timelines for effectiveness can be just as important as what you choose to advocate for.
The best way to slay dragons systemically is to stop supporting the belief in their existence. Be a part of the governing system. Become part of the decision-making process on every level. If you are not at the table, your issue will not be a priority consideration. Become part of your child’s school advisory groups. Know your school district board members.
Work toward keeping the IEP process non-emotional, clearly documented collaborative business. Not personal – just business.
On an even larger systemic scale, participate and represent the interests of people with disabilities. Weave disability into the very fabric of your community. I think this is the true course to follow if we are really going to see the dragons of discrimination become and remain extinct.
“Not special and separate but equal and at the table.”