Sunday, September 11, 2011

“I Don’t Want to Be Pushy, but…..” – Ten Ideas for Parents AND Educators to Help Deal with the Start of School

“I Don’t Want to Be Pushy, but…..” – Ten Ideas for Parents AND Educators to Help Deal with the Start of School

By Matt Cohen

September 11, 2011

We leave in an age when schools are underfunded, saddled with expectations that are difficult for them to fulfill, loads of scrutiny using arbitrary test measures, and inadequate training for teachers to cope with the demands that are placed on them. And then there are “those pushy parents.” Parents that actually want to contribute to the development of their child’s IEP. Parents that want to know how their child is doing. Parents that want to get meaningful feedback from the staff and perhaps even observe the classroom from time to time. Parents that want to know why their child isn’t making progress on their goals and objectives or why promised services aren’t being delivered. Parents that ask questions at IEP meetings or even in between IEP meetings. Parents that may even have special knowledge about their child that might be helpful in teaching the student or in working with them more effectively. Parents that are actually interested in volunteering in the classroom. Oh, my God!!!!!!!
Those pushy parents!!!! A scarlet letter quickly gets branded on their foreheads – watch out for them, they are “pushy parents.”

It is no surprise that this happens, as teachers feel unsupported by parents and administrators, overloaded by paperwork, unprepared to cope with some of the demands of their students, let alone of parents, embattled and unappreciated. The quality (or inadequacy) of American education is now an ongoing political issue. It can’t feel good to go home and turn on the tv to have politicians and talking heads blasting away night after night.

But the result is a phenomenon I call “Pushy Parent Hypersensitivity Syndrome.” This syndrome leads some educators to react defensively to any efforts by parents to become more involved, seek more information, make suggestions, or just come to observe. Clearly, some parents over do it, seeking to micromanage every thing about their child’s education, down to correcting the teacher’s grammar or insisting on being called every day. But “Pushy Parent Hypersensitivity Syndrome” causes many educators to react to even highly appropriate efforts by parents, even very limited efforts by parents, to get involved, to participate or, god forbid, to share a concern about something that is happening. PPHS results in reluctance to take phone calls, refusal to respond to emails, rigid time schedules for meetings when more time is needed, involvement of administrators when direct communication would be better, even restrictions on the parents’ ability to communicate with staff or visit the school. This syndrome usually escalates to a point of Mutually Assured Distrust, for as the educators shut down and become more defensive, the parents become more concerned, more frustrated, and feel greater need to be assertive, demanding and ultimately adversarial.
So as this new school year starts, here are some suggestions for both PARENTS AND EDUCATORS for avoiding PUSHY PARENT HYPERSENSITIVITY SYNDROME and MUTUALLY ASSURED DISTRUST!

1) COMMUNICATE OPENLY AND OFTEN ABOUT POSITIVES. Not only does the child need to feel good, but the parents and teachers need to feel good. Open and positive communication is the best vehicle for building cooperation and rapport.
2) SEEK AND WELCOME OPPORTUNITIES FOR HELP. Parents should make clear their desire to assist and support the educational staff, whether volunteering in the classroom, on field trips, or at school events. Teachers should seek out and embrace this involvement. In this era of limited and declining resources, who couldn’t use more help.
3) RECOGNIZE THAT THIS CHILD IS THE PARENTS’ MOST IMPORTANT CONCERN AND THAT THE TEACHER CAN AND SHOULD BE CONCERNED ABOUT THIS CHILD BUT CONCERNED ABOUT ALL OF HIS/HER STUDENTS. This is a message that both parties need to understand in both directions. It is important for the teacher to understand and value the parents’ concern for THEIR child and convey appreciation for that concern. It is also important for parents to recognize that no one can have the level of concern they do for their own child. They should expect appropriate and sincere concern for their child from the staff, but not that the staff will have equal concern or ignore their responsibilities for other students.
4) DON’T MAKE IT PERSONAL/TRY NOT TO TAKE IT PERSONALLY. It is is for people to feel ignored, devalued or attacked. For parents, this may happen if they feel their child is being mistreated or given insufficient attention or support, or is being treated disrespectfully. For teachers, this may result from something as simple as the parent asking the teacher their qualifications or years of experience or experience with a particular teaching method or computer system. It is easy to feel hurt, injured or angry. Try to avoid reacting to the impression or emotion that is perceived or implied. Try to focus on the actual problem. And if there seems to be inappropriate or miscommunication, try to clear the air as quickly as possible.
It is important to work on relationships and communication all the time. Little problems can build into big problems if they are not addressed. For both the parent and the school, this is made more complicated because the parent remains involved throughout, but the teacher inherits whatever problems have occurred in the past. Try to start each year fresh. Don’t ignore prior problems, but try to allow for a new start and to repair whatever problems were present before. It can be helpful to acknowledge these issues and try to address them and move on, rather than pretending they weren’t present.
The converse of number six is that sometimes, the parent or educator may get hung up on minor issues that are not worth fighting over. Rule 5 is important, but it is also important to be selective about the things you are concerned about and address with the other party. Especially if things are getting tense, it can be easy to overreact, react to things that aren’t high priority or react in a way that aggravates the problem, rather than promoting a solution.
It is almost always preferable to work together, rather than to be in conflict. Even if compromise is needed on both sides, a plan or process that everyone supports is far more likely to succeed than one that is forced on someone or that is done without real commitment.

Some special education disputes may involve legitimate issues where the parties just disagree. Many get tangled up with communication issues, personality, trust, competence, motivation and emotion. Where individual competence, motivation or conduct is at stake, it is often best to try to work out issues individually first. If that doesn’t work, try talking to a supervisor or the parent in an informal setting. Saving face is important for everybody. Public confrontations are generally more likely to polarize, rather than to bring people together. Unfortunately, if informal means are unsuccessful, it is also important to go through formal procedures and make sure that concerns are documented.
Everyone involved in this process may be experiencing stress or pressures about the process and the outcome. Often, there are other things happening that may not be known to the other party that also cause problems, stress, limit options or influence how the person comes across or what they can do. Try to imagine the situation from their perspective. It is especially important for educators to imagine what they would do if they were in the parents’ situation and all the issues the parents must be facing in trying to help their child. But the parents should also go through that process, rather than making assumptions about the educators.
Sharing important information at the last minute, or worse, in the midst of an IEP meeting, generally triggers a negative reaction in the person receiving the information. It also consumes valuable time for the other person to even process and understand the information. Often, because the person is upset at being surprised, they may respond with anger and be unable to even address the information in a meaningful way. This is particularly important when the school is sharing major new information about a child’s diagnosis, new difficulties, or need for some other program. Parents hearing this type of information for the first time in an IEP meeting are very likely to feel hurt, victimized and overwhelmed. Imagine being told that your child is failing or has a new or different disability when you thought the meeting was just a routine meeting. Similarly, parents may trigger hostility and resistance when they bring in new clinical information or a dramatic change in desired plans for the child without any advance discussion with any of the school staff. Everyone is more able to focus on the real issues when they are aware of them, rather than surprised by them.
Often, the adults involved in decision-making concerning the child can easily become caught up in their own agendas, in personalities, in emotions, and in issues of power, control, and ego. It is easy for the child and the child’s needs to get lost. All the adults, parents and educators, need to be aware of their own agendas and emotions and keep them in check. The goal is to meet the child’s needs, not to make a point, establish control, or win a moral, financial, political or emotional victory.

Copyright, Matthew D. Cohen, September 11, 2011. May be reprinted with the author’s written consent.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual- Modern Techno Edition by Matt Cohen

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual – Modern Techno Edition
Copyright by Matt Cohen, September 3, 2011 on behalf of the
American Psyberatric Association

104.50 Too Many Techno Toys Disorder:
Characterized by a need to acquire the latest and greatest communication device, each of which has unique advantages, and each of which uses a different mode of communication. This individual typically experiences a strong sense of inadequacy, jealousy, anxiety and incompleteness if they do not have the latest and newest device. Normal inhibitory process is defeated by the need to acquire the newest devices, regardless of need or resources. This disorder creates functional problems due to demands, real or perceived, for the user to maintain, charge and carry multiple devices, as their family, friends and clients may each use different systems and the New Techno Conversion Disorder causes the individual to feel that they must be available to all people at all times. People with TMTTD are typically convinced that the devices save time and improve accessibility and communication, but usually suffer persistent difficulty with keeping devices charged, remembering passwords, keeping all devices available, and losing devices frequently.

265.40 Listosynchomania- This disorder manifests itself in a chronic and overwhelming need to insure that various techno devices including calendars, contact lists, files, and data bases are constantly up to date and are using the latest versions of the necessary software. This disorder becomes progressively more disruptive as increasing numbers of devices and changing software create ever growing problems in maintaining consistency. This triggers a secondary disorder – ,

558.60 Duplication Distress Disorder, resulting from lists replicating out of control and causing memory overload and search identity disorientation. The cumulative manifestation of this disorder is an obsessive desire to insure that all lists are up-to-date and have no duplicates, leading to chronic list purging and resynching.

668.14 Post-It Addiction Disorder
This is a pre-techno disorder typical of individuals that have difficulty with organization and/or are often generating or receiving Too Much Information (TMI Syndrome –see 994.68) and can not adequately manage it either in working memory or in a consistent single method. Post-it addiction disorder presents problems with Post-it Creep, a phenomenon in which the individual’s surroundings are gradually and progressively covered by more and more post-its, even in their car, their bedroom and bathroom and their mirrors. As the Post-it Creep intensifies, the individual may experience a worsening of the condition by adding different sizes, colors and shapes of Post-its, leading to even more confusion and anxiety as to what the colors and shapes represent.
Similar to eating disorders, the individual typically maintains over use of post-its, but periodically engages in Post-It Purges, in which they frantically remove post-its, consolidate them, or transfer them to lists that are then misplaced or buried under additional post-its, rendering them unreadable and useless.

668.15 Post-Post It Traumatic Stress Disorder: This disorder is a second stage disorder, related to Post-It Addiction Disorder, but more complex. The individual with PPTSD becomes so overwhelmed by the Post-It disorder that they begin to compulsively seek alternative ways of recording their thoughts, tasks, and reminders. Often shifting to techno-based programs, they develop multiple lists, alarm systems, reminder messages are other electronic means of tracking information previously confined to post-its. Some even use an electronic version of post-its. Whatever the means, the person inevitably becomes overwhelmed by excessive numbers of lists, lost passwords, and has co-morbid problems
with Listosynchomania and Duplication Distress Disorder. One paradoxical effect of Post-Post-It Traumatic Stress Disorder is that the individual continues the effort to shift to electronic substitutes for the post-its, but, due to an underlying feeling of anxiety and insecurity as to whether the lists will be accessible or may be lost in a techno crash, they often revert to using Post-its at the same time, resulting in a dual addiction and requiring more complex intervention.

144.99 Numerous Numbers Anxiety Disorder: This disorder is a reciprocal disorder, experienced both by those possessing numerous communication devices and by those trying to communicate with them. As the number of devices, numbers, email addresses, and communication systems proliferate, e.g., gmail, email, voice mail, facetime, skype, blackberry, Nextel direct connect, VoIP, and smoke signals, people trying to reach the person using these devices are never sure which is the preferred device, which is on, which has the priority alarm or alert system, and/or is charged. Recognizing that the proliferation of means of connection may result in MESSAGE LIMBO (a state in which a message is transmitted to the person, but is not received because the device is turned off, left home, lost, deactivated, or buried in their purse), the person transmitting the message develops Numerous Number Anxiety Disorder, leading them to compulsively transmit messages to all available numbers and addresses, realizing that limiting the means of communication to one method reduces the chances of the message being received in direct proportion to the number of devices or message systems the person has. The American Psyberatric Association has, through exhaustive research, developed an equation to explain this phenomenon:
The probability that any given transmitted message will reach the intended recipient goes down in direct ratio to the increase in number of devices the person possesses. Conversely, the probability that a single message will be received goes up in direct proportion to the fewer devices the person has. The only fail-safe option, which then generates NNAD, is to generate messages in equal number to the number of devices. NNAD triggers a number of secondary reactions in the person receiving the messages including a variation of Duplication Distress Disorder (see above, but here generated by excessive messages due to excessive devices, rather than excessive lists) and Reactive Message Invasion Syndrome.

842.35 Reactive Message Invasion Syndrome. See above. This syndrome results from the person with the communication devices feeling overwhelmed by the number of messages they are receiving, both generally and from specific senders. Though triggered to some degree by TMTTD, the person with RMIS does not perceive that their techno systems may be contributing to message overload or generating difficulty for others in knowing how to best communicate with them. Despite the Message Invasion Syndrome, which can sometimes even result in resentment or hostility at the receipt of excessive messages, the individual is unable to reduce the number or sources of messages out of fear that they will miss something important or that their TMTTD will be further aggravated. A vicious circle of overload and inability to control it results, which leads to aggravation, reactivity, fatigue and sleeplessness, resulting from the need to keep track of all the messages.

125.68 Spamalot Attraction Regulatory Dysfunction: This condition is manifested by the individual’s intense and impulsive need to join lists, visit new websites and add their name to email lists and listservs, resulting in an overflow of messages. This is also manifested by excessive attraction to social network pages and uncontrolled desire to add friends to one’s lists, regardless of whether there is any actual social or other connection. This Dysfunction also leads the individual to post news about their life of absolutely no consequence, but allowing for the sensation of connection to those on their lists (e.g., I saw a Beautiful Bird today…..isn’t that great!) As the inbox and friends lists exponentially expand, the person becomes convinced that they are gaining social importance and connection, though the number of messages and individuals being connected results in another American Psyberatric Association : The Friend/List Paradox: The more messages, lists or friends an individual establishes on line, the less ability the person has to follow the information received or maintain meaningful connection with the individuals or groups sending the messages.

999.99 Cybercommunication Attention Deficit Disorder/Hermetic Relationship Disorder: These two serious and co-existing conditions involve interrelated phenomena. First, the more messages and lists the individual is receiving and the more devices being used, the more time they need to spend managing, reading and responding to the information and the more dependent they become on the devices and communications systems, as they have no time for other activities or in person interaction. This in turn leads to Hermetic Relationship Disorder, in which the person becomes totally attached to their devices, spending more time with their devices then with people. Often, the condition is characterized by the person anthropomorphizing the devices, giving them names, special colors, prominent places in their room or on their body, spending their day with ear buds or Blue Tooth devices in their ears even when there is no one on the line, and interrupting their daily activities to constantly check for new messages, even in the midst of live conversations with people talking to them. As the condition worsens, they become increasingly engaged in the cyber world, sometimes opting to communicate to people electronically even though they may be in the next room or down the hall. Increasing relying on the light of the device and its keyboard, they may not even turn on the regular lights in their room, glued to their screens, and ritualistically checking the various devices to insure that no new message, list post, or announcement is missed. The only cure for this disorder is MADD: Methodical Assistive Device Destruction.