By Alice Doyel
“I have never met a person with whom I could not find a shared interest. I enjoy meeting new people, learning about them and their interests, offering support where I can, and watching them not just survive but thrive.”
Supporting Families During the COVID-19 Pandemic
This is a shout out, a statement of praise, and a heartfelt thank you to the numerous incredible people who provided support and services for my grandson TJ and me through many challenging years. As a grandparent caregiver to a grandchild whose prior life experience was traumatic and severely damaging, there is no way his life could have turned around as it has without their help. I wish I could list everyone, but that list is far too long for this blog. Some of you who have helped us are reading this blog post, so please know how much you are appreciated.
With the arrival of COVID, these same amazing people are experiencing new life and family challenges themselves. However, they continue working for those of us whose children in our care need them more than ever. Here is a portrait of one of those people working so hard during COVID for our positive outcomes.
Melody Parshall has been one of my Wraparound Parenting Partners for almost four years. She fought with us through many injustices my grandson experienced from fifth grade through middle school.
Melody came to Guided Pathways due to her compassion and empathy for people in need of support and assistance. Guided Pathways serves many low-income families, often with family, school, and life challenges, all before COVID began.
Melody had a full caseload before COVID hit. Now, not only are the needs of her current clients increasing, but there are also many new clients in need of assistance. Referrals are coming from government agencies and non-profit organizations that had not reached out to Guided Pathways before. One issue that has come up frequently is people feeling that their children who require IEPs and 504 Plans are not getting their needs met.
Many families served by Guided Pathways cannot afford laptops for their children or not have one available for them. For example, one mother had a computer, but she needed it for work. She could not share it with her son, as she needed to use it during the same times that her son needed a computer for remote learning at school. This family finally got a laptop from the school system one week before school let out.
In another family Melody serves, the son had been struggling last year in high school. With remote learning and taking his classes from home, all of his grades jumped up. He finished the semester with As. The fact that he succeeded so well at home tells us about the failure of some special education in-school practices.
This youth is a bright student, taking advanced placement classes. The school system would not honor what was on his 504 Plan because he was in advanced placement classes. When he needed a quiet space to do his work or to take a test, that quiet space was not provided. If he needed extended time to do his work or take a test, he was not getting that either.
The school told this family they do not provide 504 accommodations for advanced placement classes. Once he was at home, his grades went up. This happened despite having three other siblings at home. He had to be accountable to his mother. That is how his grades went up.
Now the school says they are not going to accept this student in the AP classes. This kid is motivated, driven, and smart. He is an Eagle Scout. He earns money to go on scouting trips to the Grand Canyon and other places. There is no reason for him to be excluded from AP studies.
A few days ago this student was diagnosed with autism by his psychologist. The mother and Melody are now working on getting an IEP in place.
Melody is helping another family where the student is doing better at home than in school. He works one-on-one with his mother. He sits down and does his work in a quiet space. After trying unsuccessfully to get an IEP in place in Seattle Public Schools, the mother moved with her son to an adjacent suburb. Like all parents, she did not know a lot about IEP until she taught herself over the years. She is hopeful about her child’s school in their current school district.
Many of Melody’s clients feel the school personnel are the people in power. They are fearful to go against what the school tells them. Melody reminds the families that it is their life; it is their children’s life. People need to advocate for themselves and their children. There is the law in place for that reason, to take care of students who need additional services and support.
During COVID, Melody and other members of Guided Pathways added many special webinars on current subjects relevant to King County families. An example of these webinars: “Is your youth typical or troubled? This two-part online class will help you decipher between typical and troubled behaviors and what you can do to change the stigma and receive help.”
While Melody takes care of her clients working from home, she also has to manage her own life. She is the senior member of her three-generation family. Her granddaughter started middle school this year, so Melody is acutely involved with the schools in her home life. She works hard at finding ways to complete this extra workload for the many clients whose lives she cares about. Simultaneously, Melody is trying ways to calm her own daily life. That is not always easy for her to do. But Melody knows it is necessary because COVID continues on month after month to the life detriment of so many families. She must create physical and emotional stability for herself and her family, all the while she is there for those of us in need of her support, advice, and direction.
This story is similar to the many kind and caring community resource professionals and attorneys with whom I am still in touch. They work even harder these days for their clients, while living more challenging lives for themselves and other family members. Many have children whose lives and education are impacted and whose challenges must be addressed, while they work for students and families in need of support, knowledge, kindness, and legal services. To all of you, know how greatly you appreciated.