Reflecting on 2021
This is the time of the year when I like to reflect on what I’m thankful for. It’s been a really rewarding, yet challenging year.
One of the things I’m most proud of this year is celebrating Lane of Inquiry’s one year anniversary. I hope what I’ve provided has been of help.
Professionally, I’m thankful for the families and educators who have supported me by following me on social media, reaching out for individualized support, participating in a research study, sharing my resources, and being there when I needed support personally as a mom. I couldn’t have grown Lane of Inquiry to what it is today without all of you.
Personally, I’m thankful for my tribe. I’m thankful for my health and the knowledge I have gained that has enabled me to help both my own and other families.
Now for the current challenges:
1. Underestimating the catch up that would be needed this school year
Those of you that follow my story know that virtual learning was a positive experience for Dalton. It took a lot of problem solving with the IEP team, but we ultimately figured it out and were able to make it a positive experience.
That’s why when this school year started, I was hopeful that we could hit the ground running without a lot of catch up. Boy, was I wrong. I completely underestimated the learning loss that happened last year. We’ve had to do a lot of reteaching of concepts that were taught last year, and our IEP team is needing to provide a higher level of support than we did pre-pandemic.
2. Dealing with a lot of transition
I hear over and over from families about how difficult all types of transitions can be for children who are deafblind. This year was no exception. For our family, Dalton transitioned back to in-person learning, moved schools, moved school districts, and had to get to know an entirely new IEP team. Thankfully it is going well, but it takes a lot of collaboration and teamwork to make sure nothing gets missed.
3. Finding time for self-care has been extremely difficult
It is difficult for parents of children with disabilities to make time for self-care - add a pandemic on top of it, and it’s even that much harder. During the first year of the pandemic, I was happy that life seemed to have slowed down a bit. Now, this school year, I feel like my advocacy efforts and related anxiety are on hyperdrive. Somehow, I lost sight of the need to take care of myself. Now we are hitting the holidays and frankly my reserves are depleted and I’m more stressed than I’ve been in a long time. I’m working too much, stressing about things I cannot control, worrying about how my children will catch up, and not focusing on my health like I should. I’m not sleeping well, my mental health has suffered, and I’m exhausted.
As we go into the holidays, I’m forcing myself to hit the pause button on anything that is not completely necessary or doesn’t give me joy. If that means I need to say no to things, that’s what I’ll need to do.
How many of you parents and educators can relate to feeling completely burnt out right now? I hope you can find a way to do something just for you over the holiday break.
4. Recognizing that pre-pandemic challenges in special education are still there and are even more pronounced
I’ve been doing pandemic special education research over the last few years. Yes, there have been positives such as:
All this said, there remain challenges. I have been hearing from special education directors and special education teachers this year:
Looking forward to 2022
Even with all the challenges, 2022 looks to be bright for Lane of Inquiry. I had to take a brief pause on Lane of Inquiry work this fall. But, I’m happy to report that I’ll soon have new articles coming out on self-determination, student involvement in the IEP, special education leadership, parent satisfaction, and parent advocacy. I also have some research projects in the works. I have found new ways to expand my family support efforts. Lastly, I am planning a deafblind family event at our ranch in spring/summer 2022. More to come on all of this.
I hope you have a wonderful holiday season. Thank you for supporting me this year. I hope you can find time to enjoy family and friends this season. If you need any support, please reach out.
A goal I have in 2022 is to continue to expand my network so I’d appreciate it if you would encourage others to join my newsletter, follow me on social media, or tell others about the resources I provide our community. If you have ideas for how I can expand my resources or support, please reach out.
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Lanya (Lane) McKittrick is the Chair of the Board of the Usher Syndrome Coalition, founder of the Hear See Hope Foundation, and deafblind education researcher and founder of Lane of Inquiry. Lane received her PhD in Special Education at the University of Northern Colorado. Her research, advocacy and family support work are rooted in her personal experience as a mom to four sons, including two who have Usher Syndrome, the leading genetic cause of deafblindness.