21 Apr The Integration of Professionals for Supporting the Overall Well-Being of Students for Parents
Parenthood is more overwhelming today in our culture than ever before. Even with or perhaps more because of our access to Google, the latest research and technology, social media (the good and bad), the higher education levels of parents today, and various professional and school viewpoints from child-centered to nurturing millennial parents (like me). The millennials are uprising in numbers as they now have middle and high school students, and soon the majority of parents with school-age children are figuring out as families how to navigate life after the pandemic.
In my journey as a parent, on a school night this last week, my fifth-grade son was invited to a weekday birthday dinner for pizza and ice cream. Usually, this is a polite no in our home on a school night. Still, my young, introverted 5th-grade boy, with academic anxiety (already), was invited to his second social gathering in this post-pandemic area. Once I got the text, I emailed his Educational Therapist and asked her graciously if she could be so kind as to make the switch to accommodate him early so he could attend the birthday dinner on a school night. Mission accomplished: This is what it means to be a parent; how can we shift and balance academic responsibilities and experiences while building other compartments of the toolbox, like social connections and relationships and taking turns with shared ideas with play and joy, skills that become a part of our “toolbox” for life!
The latest trends and educational philosophies try to combat the fragility of our youths’ mental health and overall well-being as parents face a new era of parenthood. The integration of working with your team of professionals into our parenting journey is to support our decisions, goals, and values as a family. I know the structure my son has and the support we have provided him is allowing him to thrive as he prepares for middle school this fall. A parental-professional partnership is essential to a child’s development and experience. I was committed and consistent in my parental journey since my son was not talking in his formative years. He had a speech evaluation and remediation before age three. He was not talking within the expected window for his age, an expressive language delay known to make reading challenging later in school. I partnered with his childcare team to provide instruction on supporting his language needs for prompting words. And then onward, from teacher meetings to reading specialists and Educational Therapy, all have been pieces of information that share a story about my son’s learning profile. Within the story, we can illustrate how to address or scaffold reasonable measures for goal-oriented support and progress in our children’s lives.
Our role as parents is to understand the value and importance of integrating parental-professional partnerships to drive goals toward our child’s well-being as an individual and learner: parent-professional-partnership in academic and social-emotional wellness is the foundation for all individual growth. As college-bound middle and high school students continue to emerge into themselves and identify their formulating identities, in a warm and supported environment at home, with structured support for personal and academic growth at school, we parents are also learning along the way with our children as they evolve into a new grade level after each and every spring.
As an educator, it has always been natural for me to connect with compassion first and direct support to reset the focus to achieve the best student learning outcomes. As a parent, compassion is my lifeline when discussing my son’s anxiety and social connections. He did not talk until age 3 with intensive remediation and the Lindamood-Bell Reading Comprehension Program at the end of second grade. The integration of a team that one can trust and is a good active listener as this is the team that is most likely to celebrate success in student growth. In these intimate conversations, it is essential for clarity in communication and the central purpose of collaboration. After decades of service to students and their parents for school or college support, listening is a far more powerful tool to use in support of solutions to problems that will occur on our journey.
In my career, implementing school accommodations (i.e., extra time), for example, as an accommodation tool, is different from building the skills needed to know how to use the tools we have. When I approach a student with my “toolbox” analogy and emphasize with an illustration on the whiteboard, they often smile, making a connection with me. They are far more likely to open up and soak in the context, knowing what they can do now, and begin using their new supports at and outside of school to achieve their personal and academic goals.
Parents are learners, too, and often have similar profiles as their children. Parents also thrive with the same connection and talking points to break down how to support their child’s “toolbox” with care and direction. Our tools to access knowledge and demonstrate what we know is the goal. Yet, as an active listener, first, I bring a sense of humanity with compassion as it has been more productive to accomplish our goal when listening with care to add to a sound action plan with the “team.”
The increase in mental health awareness each year and the need for learning support post-pandemic in education, especially for neurodiverse learners, has only escalated the concerns for most adult caregivers and educators. It is no surprise schools across the country, public and private, are increasing funds to add more professionals in mental health and learning specialists with structure, support, and programs.
As an IEC, colleges have been aware of instruction and learning to be accessible to all students. Colleges continue to increase access and programs to provide direct support, not limiting or restricting to those with learning differences or students with medical accommodations, but a deeper understanding of psychological wellness and healthy coping skills.
In college, some institutions have comprehensive programs for learning support on campus. This means the college has a special department with allocated resources and multiple layers of professionals who are learning specialists to serve students above and beyond the basic academic accommodations. Colleges today are engaged and prepared to support the various needs of their enrolled college students to support the transition and overall well-being of the first year of college life. Colleges have created organizational or study wellness classes, weekly meetings or mentorship, tutoring sessions on a specific topic, or for a specific class like math remediation or review, or tutoring one-to-one, and other support for all community members on campus (i.e., with meditation, counseling, medication management support, etc.). The additional programs in these communities are known to provide structure (i.e., routine check-ins with professionals) and scaffolding connection, engagement, and learning when meeting with professionals who understand your young adults learning history. Ultimately, this is what we aim to do now as parents; to integrate professional support for our children’s learning and well-being as one day, they will build their toolbox and grow independent tools for their own journey as they will one day manage their own support systems for success.