At Japari school we are committed to offering an environment that best supports our children to achieve the best of their ability. A very important aspect of this is the ability to support the family. Parenting can at times be a stressful experience for all parents. Sometimes parents, who have children with specialised learning needs, find this journey more arduous, taxing and anxiety provoking. At Japari, we recognised the need to support all our parents in their respective journeys.
The initiative was 2 pronged; The first, a monthly parent support group with the focus on having an experienced facilitator who could bring about a safe space where parents could interact in an honest and meaningful way without being judged or given advice. This has enabled parents to connect in a meaningful way, has normalised some of their parenting issues, and opened up a whole new level of compassion for themselves and others. The groups have been structured with the facilitator first presenting a researched talk and then an element of the talk is unpacked, and has been the basis for a support group.
The first group addressed the topic of; My child is different, now what? The talk focussed on how difficult and lonely the journey of specialised education can be. It looked at practical topics such as some of the feelings parents may have upon receiving a formal or informal diagnosis and tips for how to make the journey an easier one. The group topic was discussing how parents might have felt after getting that first diagnosis and exploring their world of specialised needs education. As a first group it was quite emotional, but connected everyone in a real way.
The second group was a parent-selected topic of discipline. The talk focussed on what discipline was, techniques and strategies of discipline and how this applies to children in a school environment like Japari. The topic for the parent group was to discuss how they discipline their children at home and where they may need help. The group presented differing views, yet all parents managed to stay connected and non-judged.
The final group for the year was also a parent selected topic of bullying. The talk unpacked bullying in detail, what it is and what it is not. It looked at the topic of how bullying can be incorrectly labelled in children with ADD, Autism, learning difficulties and so forth. It gave some practical tips on dealing with bullying for both the perpetrator and victims’ families. The group reflected on their own bullying issues from the parent’s personal experiences to their children’s personal experiences. Bullying was discussed from all views from parents of victims to parents of perpetrators and how the cycle can be so linked. Parents addressed issues of what really constitutes bullying and how to best enable their children in dealing with bullying and social difficulties.
The support groups at Japari have been a great success.
The second part of the initiative has been that of offering parents, private individual supportive counselling sessions. The individual counselling sessions are based on a 6 to 12-week programme. They are non-prescriptive in that the focus is on the client’s needs and requirements. Sometimes the issues may be general and vary from week to week and sometimes there is a theme and a specific area a client would like to address. If this is the case, goals are established and even some homework is given to help best deal with the situation and change the theme or pattern. The working model is very much case-by-case based. If the counsellor is required to, she works with the school and the parent as part of a multi-disciplinary team to best support the parent and family where needed.
We have been very pleased with our initiative thus far and are slowly starting to see the benefits. We look forward to continuing with the initiative in 2019 and to offering our parents support in a more meaningful, concrete and practical way.