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Parent Perspective: Advocating for Neurodiverse Learners

Justine Fischer of All It Takes and CalHOPE Schools shares her journey as a parent navigating the complexities of raising a neurodivergent child in the public school system. She speaks to the pain of unwarranted blame and misunderstanding from others, underscoring the importance of empathy, patience, and community support in creating successful outcomes for every learner. From her own experience, she knows support from those who recognized her son's needs gave her family the fuel they needed to advocate for their son, leading to tremendous outcomes that defied expectations.


Parent Perspective: Advocating for Neurodiverse Learners

"Because my child had a different perspective on life, saw things in a different way, and did things. And, you know, listen, it's a little odd. That's what we loved most about him. But the hardest thing for me was people blaming me for something. You know, somehow, I wasn't a good enough parent. I didn't read to him enough. We didn't have a designated sleep time. Well, because he never slept.

Those kinds of things where, you know, you were trying to do the best you can and other parents or educators or whoever are in that blaming. Well, if you only. Well, if you only and I think that's the place where you have to say what I need is or how can I help you.

I think one of the best things that helped me was a teacher who my son didn't have, who saw him and understood him, said, I have a brother like this. He's 40. I'm arranging a lunch with my mother. You'll get through this and she's going to talk about how she did. And that was really great. That was like mentoring. I only met with her once, but she talked about some of the things that had happened.

The hardest part for parents and educators is we don't know their story. We don't know how hard it is. We don't know if dad's working five jobs or mom is so a parent can stay home. We don't know if someone's really sick in the house. We don't know what their challenge and their struggles are. So I think that the hardest part is our unintentional blame of others asking them to do something when we really don't know the circumstance.

You know, I had people nastily tell me, you know, they were frustrated that my child got some extra attention or some extra hope. Why were we spending money on him? He's going to be in jail. It's going to be a loser. He's never going to get a job over there. And I will say it's sort of vindicating, but I've run into some people over time now and they're like, oh, I'm sure. How is your son? I'm sure they're expecting me to say, Oh, you know, he's doing time in Joliet or something. I don't know what they're expecting.

But I say, Well, he has a master's degree, he lives in another country, speaks another language, and he designs English language curriculum for a school district. They're always shocked. I ask how their kid is, and they say, Oh, you know, really struggling. Oh, partly because of the pandemic. They're at home. I said the pandemic was hard on everybody. We all have different times of challenges, and I really mean that. But in my head, I'm going, ha ha ha, you blamed me for my kid and he's doing okay because he had really great parents who were his advocates.

And we found allies in education and the community that supported him and made sure that he got to follow his dreams and do what he wanted to be happy and functioning and following their own path in the long term."

-Justine Fischer


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