It’s been some time since we’ve talked together about school. And you’re thinking, “That’s not a bad thing.” Why focus on the crazy making planning and IEP development process that threatens sanity on a good day?

The truth is the anxiety and frustration involved with school interactions is with parents when we are waking and sleeping, and throughout summer and winter. Maybe sorting out what needs attention, and planning a campaign to refocus anxiety into action is a welcome gift we can give ourselves.

Pull out the school’s plan for your child with disabilities that was written in the summer or the fall. If the school hasn’t produced this IEP or planning document, or they are still winging it day to day, send me a note and will talk – soon.

How many of the promises are being kept? I looked for a 50% promise kept rating. It was sometimes not easy to know what was going to matter as his year progressed. For instance, most important on my promises scorecard was that the teacher was accommodating his needs and welcoming his efforts. I learned to watch out for the new testing assurances and the revised policy commitments written into our IEP. These generic special needs considerations were the shinny objects that made their way into a plan but rarely into a classroom. I think the school really wanted to do more and better, but it sometimes wasn’t in the cards. So I tried to focus on what could actually be done with current resources and staff. Until the day when that wasn’t enough, but that struggle is for another time. However, low expectations gave me a place to stand and appreciate the efforts being made for my son without actually wanting to attack someone for letting a lot of things slide.

How often have you sent a note, talked to a teacher or attended a meeting? You know how I feel about this. Parents have to show up and become a constant presence in a teacher’s world. Without this presence you risk blending in the sound proof ceiling tiles, muffled and above the notice of school staff. Yes, even when it appears that very little is tailored to your daughter’s learning issues, practice gratitude and keep showing up, advocating for more. Say thank you and keep reminding everyone involved that you’re not going away.

If grades are coming in now, don’t pay as much attention. Read the comments first. In eighth grade, my son scored in the 60’s in geometry, but his talent for building a suspension bridge was noted and appreciated. Take the comment with joy. Your daughter may not grasp American History, but her teacher encourages her questions about the Constitution. That means you have an ally. Any teacher who is willing to engage in learning, on or off the assignment grid, is a lucky break. Notice her and let the school know about the difference she make is your child’s life.

Write a thank you letter before the holiday break to everyone who mattered at school this past semester. I know this list may be short, but give it some thought. The bus driver, cafeteria worker, janitor, and the librarian all got notes from time to time. These people did help in my son’s day-to-day life in an environment that was confusing and unwelcoming on too many days. You can’t know how much you pave the way for action until you bring to light the little deeds of these personal heroes. It doesn’t take long to say thank you and no one ever forgets the attention.

Don’t worry about the fudmillerfantasticture. I know, really old advice. Except it isn’t. I just saw the latest JK Rowling film, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”. Great movie but don’t take a child under 7 unless they have already had the Harry Potter experience of “obscurions” and shape shifters. Mean-spirited adults who beat children aren’t movie fodder for every child. But, the hero does hero explains why he doesn’t worry about danger by saying: “I think if you worry you suffer twice.” I wish someone had told me that a long time ago.

Holiday advice you can count on comes next week.

Write your letters today. Your random acts of kindness change the way schools see both you and your child!