I recently attended a family wedding in Illinois. The mother of the bride has a brother with Down Syndrome who was sheltered living at home with his parents, until the recent passing of his mother. His mother did what she felt was right by keeping him at home and protecting him from others. Taking him out in public was not always greeted with kindness. The stares and comments of the community hurt her feelings, and she didn’t want her son to feel that hurt. Now, his siblings are taking him to community events and gatherings where he is experiencing many firsts. This was his first wedding and after the father of the bride gave the toast, he and Mark sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” to the guests. Everyone cheered showing their acceptance of him. It was fun watching Mark with his family and the guests engaging with him as they all danced the night away. The next morning the mother of the bride told me she was in awe of how her brother was treated and she appreciated that kindness towards him.
On the drive home I reflected how awesome that experience was for Mark’s family. I began to think about how we can make things better for families. What’s that one little thing we can do to make that connection with them? It will look different for all families. One family may be engaged, belong to a support group and have many connections in the community. Another family may feel they don’t have a friend in the world. You could be that one person to help them connect with all the resources that are available to them. It may be the family that never shows up for an IEP meeting. What can we do to encourage and help them feel engaged in meetings? Perhaps having a conference call instead or reminders through phone calls or text messages. Maybe we can just engage them in conversation reminding them we too want their child to be successful. Ask them to share something about their child that they think might be helpful. Let them know we want that connection with them. We may not get that with every family, but we can’t give up because our kids need us to advocate good communication between home and school.
How can we make our families feel more connected and engaged? We would love to hear what you are doing to engage families. Please share your stories in the reply area below.