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Just One Request

by Mary Mazzoni on July 24, 2011

We filled the hall. About 800 of us.  Parents, teachers, agency professionals and young people. The teens had spent the last few days learning and having fun with young PYLN mentors while the rest of us participated in excellent workshops.

During the conference, several teens agreed to participate in individual videotaped interviews. Now during the closing session, they appeared before us – on giant screens.  They candidly answered questions about their experience growing up as kids with disabilities. Then they were asked: “What do you want to say to your parents and teachers?”.  Again and again came the same reply – “LISTEN TO ME”.

These teens had been interviewed individually – but each of them had the same message for us!  Each one said “thanks for all you do for me” and each one had just one request – please listen.  Wow.

I learned a lot at the Pennsylvania Community of Practice on Transition Conference last week.  I’ve got a memory stick full of resources, pages of scribbled notes and a new collection of business cards.

But it’s the kids’ words that ring in my ears.

Your thoughts?

I want to listen more intentionally.  As parents and educators, how can we more fully listen to our kids?  What are your thoughts?  Please share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

Photo credit: Jemsweb at Flickr

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jimnp72 August 14, 2011 at 8:01 am

listening and eye contact to let them know you are interested and involved are great ways to enhance positive lifestyles.

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Tam January 16, 2013 at 6:52 am

My daughter, now 19 y.o., wanted/wants me to listen. She has so much to say. I did my best to be her advocate for, really, no one else will or can as a child’s parent will and can. If I could do it all over again from the beginning I would do this:
Tools for the child and parent (and other responsible/and/or interested parties determined by the parent and child):
1. Parent and child, together, create a journal that identifies needs, wants, and pain withing the child, as well as strengths, desires and happiness in the child’s life.
2. Parent and child work on solutions for each identified quality.
3. Practice implementing solutions. Rewrite solutions as needed. Never stop working towards good health, happiness and opportunity with your child.
4. Thinking outside of the box IS necessary as you are going to shake up the typical and, by experience, expected in society as part of enabling your child their rightful place in the world more than possible without these activities.

There are so many priorities in a child’s life. For children with disabilities, they just want to fit in. I did not know how to orchestrate a healthy social life for my child, enough. I do believe that for most children with disabilities their parents need to take more responsibility with creativity and watchfulness than is needed for their typical peers. I always felt like I, as a parent, and, she, as a child, were always on the defensive side. I wish I had tools to put us on the offense side of growth in, and opportunities involving social enjoyment with peer and shared activities. How does a parent cause typical peers to befriend and invite their disabled child into their life similar to how they befriend and invite their typical friends? I’ve seen it done, and the advantage the parents had were money and time to teach groups of students in their child’s educational settings about their wonderful son. They had an indoor pool and invited ‘all the kids’ to pool parties. Really, they did so much more, they advocated for free for other children in their state that were in the same disability category as their son. This family is incredible, and their son so lucky. As a parent I realized a weakness in being there for my daughter.

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Mary Mazzoni January 16, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Tam – Thanks so much for sharing your insights!
Your ideas for journaling, planning together, problem-solving and “out of the box” thinking – are so valuable for all of us! I love how you understand your daughter’s desire to be heard – and how you listen and reflect on ways to support her.

Amen to your encouraging words: “Never stop working towards good health, happiness, and opportunities for your child!” Your daughter is blessed to have you as her mom.

Thanks so much for sharing!

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Tam January 18, 2013 at 7:59 am

Fabulous resource (find your state’s local chapter):
http://www.fvkasa.org/index.php
My daughter is deaf-blind. She has had the privilege of ‘instructing’ policemen in how to approach/communicate with others that share her dual-sensory loss. I know, from her recount of the experience, that she felt empowered to explain her needs in a meaningful way. Through the years she has not had that opportunity enough. This is key too, and quite the challenge to empower your child to ‘win’ equal access, but, your child has you to assist in finding solutions to strengthen their voice, and Kids As Self Advocates (KASA) is on your child’s side! KASA has been my child within a group of other children sharing challenges/solutions promoting equal access/ sensitivity in their self-advocacy for interacting within their/our world.

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Mary January 18, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Tam – So glad to hear of your daughter’s experience as an advocate and self advocate. Her work training police officers will be a blessing to others – and her experience with KASA has empowered her to “be the change” she wants in the world. Kudos to her! And to you as a parent who promotes her self determination!

KASA is a wonderful organization. Thanks for sharing your daughter’s experiences!

Youth leaders and self advocates are organizing all over the country – through organizations like KASA and NYLN (National Youth Leadership Network http://www.nyln.org/get-involved-2/). Youth are making themselves heard and making a difference in the world!

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