Thursday, November 27, 2014

Parent Coaching: What it is and is not

Oh no, there is another level of support that has been created for a family with special needs children. Don't worry. The reality is that parent coaches have been here all along. We just never gave ourselves a name and a stated mission before. We are the parents who have come before, who have studied, tried, fought and cried over what works and doesn't work; what is appropriate and helpful; what is overreaching and taxing; and what in the end is realistic and pragmatic. Whether we called ourselves, advocates or special education committee parent members, we bring to the table something different and unique when it comes to the world of special needs....hands on experience. We didn't just learn our craft from a book, clinical trials or detached coach to client interactions. We have lived the issues you are now facing. We have taken our college and graduate school degrees and turned them into a new level of support.We back up our education with real life know-how and how-tos. In my case it's all about the practical. How to take what you know and put it to good use in the world at large and how to help your child function in society.

What parent coaching is not

It is not therapy. It is not psychiatry. It is not social work. It is not life coaching. It is not legal advice. It is not special education. It is the practical reality of assimilating everything the other professionals in your child's village tells you and making it work for your child and your family.

Do NOT go to a parent coach if you are trying to figure out what is wrong. That is the purview of the psychiatric and neurological professions. You need to have a full set of psycho-educational testing done including all the subsets of tests. You must have a diagnosis before you go to a parent coach. You do not discuss medicines with the parent coach beyond what your child is taking. The parent coach does NOT help you decide if a medication is right for your child.  That is something you discuss with the doctor. Also what supplemental programs, what therapies, what nutrition is needed is something you discuss with a doctor. Also why there is autism and what causes autism and if your child should or should not get vaccinated we leave to the conspiracy theorists. Ask you doctor and then you decide. (Of course if you want a parent coach who shares your notions on vaccines, Generation Rescue and DAN, then ask upfront and find someone you agree with and who supports your ideals. In these cases that would not be me. )

A parent coach does not give you legal advice. They can teach you how to self-advocate. They can help you understand the law. They can point you in the right direction to learn about financial support for your special needs child. But they do not represent you in court or even go with you to meetings.

And FYI- as I have always said, if you think you need a lawyer, get a lawyer. If your child's civil rights have been violated you need someone with practical legal experience. If you want to use an advocate then make certain that that advocate is attached to a law firm. They must have an experienced lawyer overseeing their every move. Remember the school districts will always have a lawyer working at their behest. Make sure you enter any arguments on a level playing field.

What is parent coaching

A major issue that I noticed during the decades that I have been my sons' advocate is that there is never anyone who can tell you how to turn their special education notions into practical reality or generalize it in such a way that it works on every level. Now don't get me wrong. There are terrific life skills programs, social story books and organizational realities that work in school. There are terrific special educators who work well within the parameters of their classroom. But what I had to develop over the years is a way to make everything that was done in school work at home, out in the community, transition into the era when the yellow school bus stopped coming to my door, and then some

The interesting thing about parent coaching, that is different than other levels of support however, is that it is about the entire family, as well,  and not simply an individual person to the exclusion of others. It is about keeping the family whole, intact, happy and productive by way of providing practical useful and time honored support for your special needs child, their siblings and yourselves. It's about understanding the nuances associated with your child. It's about understanding how to help them through the most difficult times so that they can have the future that they are entitled to have. It is about you, being allowed to be human, accepting the fact that you are allowed to enjoy your life too. It is acknowledging that your typical children are needy and in need of more support at times than your challenged child. It is about your family as a unit.

Parent coaches help with practical plans and practical realities. But one thing you will never hear from me, as a coach is that it cannot be done. OK, within reason of course. If your child needs glasses and wants to be a F16 pilot, you will have to accept the fact that without 20/20 vision it is not going to happen, unless laser surgery can fix whatever is causing the eye issues. So there is a little bit of a caveat in the reality. But let us just say that parent coaches help your child reach their goals.

In other words, the question is what does your child want to accomplish and then the issue becomes how do we get them there? We see the person before us and not the disability. We figure out how to harness their disability and support it so that they might accomplish their goal. We see beyond the disability. In fact we find a way to take their disability and make it work for them. We turn it into a uniqueness, a gift. Something that can propel them into a different arena. Something not oft thought of, but something that might exist if only we think outside the box.

We set goals, discuss issues and the utimate direction that your child wants to take.
We delineate each step.
We set out parameters of accomplishment.
We work on plans A, B, C through Z.
We set a time table, and then revamp it to meet the reality of goal setting.

Parent coaching is about teaching the parents how to organize their life so that there is a life. They help the parent create and organize their child's village so that everything runs smoothly, or at least as smooth as possible. We help the parent teach their child to assimilate the practical side of their lives.We teach the parent to stand their ground and persevere. We teach the parent to teach their child to never give up. We teach the parent to expect the unexpected. We teach the parent that they can still sing, dance and laugh. No, you don't always have to cry.....sometimes you can even be mad as hell and at your special needs child too, especially when they act like a typical teen.

But most of all, parent coaches ensure that each child is seen as an individual. That each child is a person in their own right and with their own level of functioning. We understand that simply because there is exception in one area of life doesn't mean there is not a huge deficit in the most basic aspects of reality. We help the parents understand about independence, support and the necessity of individuality. We make you STOP comparing your child to everyone else and especially everyone else who shares your child's disability.

Now you may not think you need a parent coach. But, if you have been reading my blog for along time, then I have been your parent coach all along. Perhaps you just thought of me as an on-line friend, someone you could reach out to in time of need with questions, issues and an ever present shoulder. I am happy to be there for all of you. I am glad to support you and hope for the best for everyone. I just thought it was about time I gave a name to what I do.

For more information about Parenting Coaching, click HERE for Raising Exceptional People, LLC