Parent-to-Parent

by Sheryl Burgstahler

DO-IT hosts an electronic discussion list for the parents of participants in our programs. On this list parents ask questions, share resources, and support one another. Below is an example of a recent message from parents of a 1999 DO-IT Scholar that was sent to the new DO-IT Scholar parents just before the beginning of Summer Study 2000. They share the feelings of many parents as their children move toward greater levels of independence and document some of the benefits of participation in the DO-IT Scholars program.

New Scholar Parents:

Next week is the start of DO-IT for all the new Scholars and I thought I would take a moment to share our experiences with the new parents. I remember last year we were very nervous about leaving our son. He may be taller than we are but he is still our baby. We live out here in the "sticks" on the coast and the UW is far away from home. Seattle is one great big city. Two weeks alone with a bunch of strangers. We sent him with our phone card, all our phone numbers and our email address. And then we waited and waited and waited. In two weeks, we got one lousy two-sentence email. It went something like this, "I'm having a good time. I've been really busy. Love Ryan." And that was the last we heard from him until we picked him up.

He then talked for most of the three hour drive home, including a stop for dinner. He had a great time, he learned a lot. He had a lot to say about his new friends, and had a lot of stories to share about who they were and where they were from. It really did sound like they were always busy. During the school year we saw a real change in his attitude about his ability and his willingness to speak up about his learning disability. He even wrote his own letter of introduction to his teachers explaining his disability and the accommodations he needed. He asked to do the talking at a meeting of all his teachers. We practiced ahead of time with the school counselor and then scheduled the meeting And he did do most of the talking, "Wow." Halfway through the year he changed his entire schedule because he felt that his English class wasn't working for him. He worked it all out with the teachers and the counselor on his own. This is the kid who would quietly fall behind in a class rather than speak up. He also began to see college as a very real option for himself and think more and more about what he would like to do in the future.

He is looking forward to returning to DO-IT for a week this summer. So don't worry, your son or daughter will have a very interesting two weeks, they will make new friends and hopefully learn a little about themselves. And maybe they will remember to call or write once or twice during their time away from home just to let you know they are okay! We are looking forward to meeting all of you. We won't however be there on the fifth, his grandparents will be driving him. (Thank goodness for grandparents, we couldn't bring him until Sunday and he would have "gasp" missed the Museum of Flight field trip.) We will, however, be at the parent meeting on the eleventh.

Kelly and Mike