As I read posts on the WS Support page, the listserve, throughout Facebook, and think back on my son’s school years it is clear to me, that late August and early September are clearly a time for new beginnings – much more so than the traditional New Year’s Day. But the new beginnings that I am talking about are not signaled by all night parties, and resolutions... I am talking about a time that comes complete with all the emotions that are associated with a new start – from anticipation and excitement to stress and anxiety. Think back to each new job you started, new city/home you moved to, or new challenge that you undertook, and I’m sure that all of these emotions were present. I think, among parents of school-age children (and even beyond) with Williams syndrome, the start of school is just like that!
For parents of typical kids, Labor Day and the start of school mark the end of summer vacation – a time when our kids will be “busy” again, and when we can steal few more hours for ourselves. It’s not typically a stressful time or a time when we spend inordinate numbers of hours wondering what our kids will accomplish. We’ve been provided with information on their curriculum for a particular grade and we are pretty certain that our kids will absorb most, if not all, of what is presented to them.
But when our children have learning challenges, all of that changes. The start of school is suddenly so much more. It is a time of much anticipation, and worry – will this be the year that our child will learn to read, be included with an age-appropriate curriculum, or be invited to the prom? Or conversely, will the new school be “right” for our son or daughter, will the new teacher understand how our child learns, will we get all the services we need into the IEP... will the other kids reach out in friendship? The bad news is that looking back, I don’t ever remember a year that didn’t bring that complete mixed bag of emotions; the good news is that nor do I remember a year when my greatest fears were realized. Somewhere in between seemed to be the rule of thumb most of the time.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to alleviate the stressors and provide more reasons for the anticipation and excitement of new achievements? There is... to a pretty great extent. Although it will never be possible to eliminate all the stress in our lives, (about our kids with WS, or any other part of our life for that matter), we can help a lot by remembering to take a little advice from the Beatles...“I get by with a little help from my friends.” The fact is, with a little help from our friends, we can not only “get by”, we can make things a WHOLE lot better. The great news is that by virtue of our membership in the WSA, we each have thousands of friends who can help, as well as the resources created for us by the WSA’s educational team – folks who know a lot about "what makes our kids tick" – how they think, how they learn, and what we can do to help their educational teams facilitate the process.
Over the past several days, I have read posts from parents seeking help with IEPs, therapies, reading curriculums, social skills...and I have shared in the excitement of parents as their kids brought home “proof” of a new achievement, or they shared their pleasure at new class placement that seems “just right” for this year. Each person posting has been rewarded with “likes” and emotional support as well as excellent suggestions for “next steps” and new resources based on their own personal experience. I cannot personally think of a better way to help alleviate some of the stressors than with the support that we can provide each other from personal experience, and the WSA can help too. Throughout the past several months we have been working to create resources for you and your child’s educational team. They, and other resources, are linked below for your reference and review; utilize them, share them with others, tell us what else would be helpful. Together we can make each year a little less stressful and more exciting than the year before.
Resources for Educators
Healthy Relationships - a curriculum and workbook created by Talk Counts for individuals with Williams syndrome and similar learning challenges.