In this week’s class, we were joined by the admirable Tracy Humphreys, founder, and chair of BCED Access. BCED Access Society is a volunteer-run organization serving families of students with disabilities throughout BC. The organization is made up of approximately 3500 members, mainly parents of children with disabilities. This community shares stories, advice, support, and resources on how to best support the education of children with disabilities. I had never previously heard of this organization but felt inspired knowing this type of resource exists. At times listening to Tracy speak was very difficult for me, I could feel the emotions swelling within my chest. She talked about the challenges of trying to support her children’s education and the stress of becoming her children’s case manager. I related to Tracy’s story as I grew up with an older brother who has a designated learning disability and a mother who often suffered greatly from the stress of trying to be his case manager. My mother is a very strong, capable, well-educated, mature woman who was fortunate enough to be financially comfortable at this point with a loving and supportive spouse, still, she struggled. Many families of children with disabilities are not so lucky, they face the same challenges without the same resources and skills my family did, I cannot imagine the struggle. Tracy repeatedly brought up that one of the most important things we can do as future educators to support our students is to talk to them, talk to the family, build a relationship to find out what they need and how you can support that. I agree with this wholeheartedly as I can remember the high levels of stress in my home during the years my brother had a teacher who didn’t build that relationship with him or my parents. After a couple of days to reflect on Tracy’s advice, one question repeatedly comes to mind, how can we help students with disabilities identify and communicate their needs? My brother struggles with oral and written output, if a teacher were to ask his needs, he likely wouldn’t know how to express them even if he could identify them. I will continue to look into this question, as I want to be able to support my students and their families as much as possible in their learning journey. I hope that I am one day able to create the kind of supportive learning environment where parents can feel confident their children will be supported to the very best of my abilities.
March 11, 2021