Ep 144. Debra Schafer: Working While Parenting a Special Needs Child
By Work and Life with Stew Friedman
Debra Schafer is an independent educational consultant and coach with a particular expertise. She is Founder and CEO of Education Navigation, which she started after more than 20 years of management experience in human resources, work/life integration, and marketing communications and 15 years of special education consulting, coaching, and advocacy experience. Debra is an advocate for students K - college graduation who have been diagnosed with ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, other mental health issues and learning differences. She works with parents as well as within business organizations with their Human Resources departments and directly with executives to help educate them not only about regulations but also about how to develop realistic strategies and plans for managing work/life integration when you have a child with special needs or when you have an employee grappling with how to navigate these two worlds.In this episode, Stew, who is a parent of a special needs child, and Debra discuss how, as an HR executive trying to meet her own child’s special needs, she learned first-hand the importance of flexibility at work and how both parents and organizations need education and support. They discuss the issue of stigma and how people are often uncomfortable talking about either their own mental health issues or their child’s developmental differences and mental health struggles, and how this affects their lives at work. Debra shares potential solutions for employees and employers and explains what it means to provide a safe environment at work in which employees can share some of the real stumbling blocks to meeting their job demands while caring for the special needs of their children.