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Will has been having more trouble with his car. We felt a momentary urge to travel to his city to help him out. But that would involve three hours of driving in one day, and we really couldn’t help him much. Instead, Ralph encouraged him over the phone to solve his own problems. He gave him advice to call someone from his church to request a ride to church on Sunday. This person also took him to the grocery store. On Monday, he will arrange to have his car towed, make a list of things that need to be fixed and pay for it. We resisted the urge to rescue him. We are prepared to help him if he really needs it.

When I hear/read about teachers, principals, superintendents, college admission directors, and social workers/psychologists complaining about helicopter parents, I wonder uneasily if they are talking about me, and maybe about many parents of children with special needs.

After all, we expected that the goals set in IEPC meetings would be met. And we expected the promised services would be provided. We went to workshops and conferences and learned about advocating for our kids. When promises were not met, we asked why not. When teachers failed to accommodate our children, we asked bluntly why not during parent teacher conferences; sooner if problems developed.

I ended my childcare business when I realized services were not being provided as consistently as they had been when I was not working. My husband was angry, but I stood my ground. The next school year, I began working as a lunch lady at my children’s school. I was a watching parent.

What would have happened to them if I not been a “helicopter parent?” Would my children have done as well as they have?

We pushed our children and we pushed ourselves.

We pushed for our oldest daughter, Mary, to be placed in an autistic program and she made wonderful progress. She is now looking for work after having completed her bachelor’s degree in accounting.

We pushed our son to do well in school. We worked to make sure he was not penalized for his autistic traits. That he had accommodations for his slow handwriting due to fine motor deficits. That he had a quiet place of refuge when he became agitated. We encouraged him to work hard in marching band. We encouraged his teachers to expect more from him. We insisted that he did his homework.

We began pulling back as our kids began preparing for college. For Mary, it was the realization that she could attend college as her brother and sister were expected to. The opportunities opened up for her. The first year or so I encouraged her to advocate for herself, to problem solve for herself. I only swooped in when her best efforts failed…and professors became resisted to accommodations. But we tried to let her solve her own problems. We did less and less hovering as she progressed through college.

Will needed a little hovering his first year of college, but as he adjusted, he became his own advocate. He is solving his own problems.

Now we are okay with him camping in his apartment until he can afford to buy a couch and mattresses. For now he is sleeping on an air mattress. We gave him what we were not using, but we didn’t buy him furniture. We are letting go, just like other parents. He can ride the bus to work. He can get his car fixed and pay for it.

If we have been accused of being helicopter parents, guilty. We are okay with that. We are also okay with giving up that role.