January, 2012: Oakland Press

Susan Kruger was featured in this article in the Oakland Press.

susan kruger

Common problem for parents: not understanding their children

Countless parents know their child is not working to his or her potential in school.

They fear that there may be a serious, underlying problem. What can these parents do? Where can they go for help? What resources are available? What are their rights?

A local educator and counselor is shedding some light on these questions and helping concerned parents. Karen Smigelski, MA, LPC, CAADC, is the owner of Willows Edge Counseling and Art Center and adjunct faculty member at Oakland Community College. Through her work, she met many parents who were completely lost over how to help their struggling child. Smigelski said she found herself acting as an advocate for these families, helping them identify specific areas of concern and navigating the system so they could secure the best resources for their child. After working with just a few families, Smigelski recognized that many serious gaps exist between concerned parents and the schools servicing their children.

Smigelski responded by offering services that focus on counseling and educational support for struggling students at Willows Edge. She is a certified administrator of PowerPath, a screening tool that efficiently identifies areas of potential learning challenges. PowerPath helps Smigelski narrow in on specific areas of concern. Armed with this information, she is able to guide parents through the process of getting help within their school system. Along the way, she also helps students develop successful strategies for themselves.

Susan Kruger is a Lake Orion parent whose son was recently diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD. Kruger’s family had a tumultuous experience last year when her son was in first grade. She began to suspect that something was wrong and attempted to get some answers. However, she encountered many hurdles and serious roadblocks from her son’s school.

What makes her situation particularly unique is that Kruger is a professional educator with a master’s degree in reading and learning efficiency. She was a classroom teacher for several years, is a national reading consultant and the author of the best-selling book “SOAR® Study Skills.” Her husband, Brian Winter, is a nationally board-certified teacher in their son’s school district.

“With our education background and my husband’s personal connections in the school system, you would think we would have no trouble getting help,” Kruger explained. “But we had absolutely no cooperation from the school administration.”

The lack of support was so significant that Kruger and her husband were accused of “educational neglect” in a private meeting with their son’s principal. “He felt that our son’s attendance was the reason his reading was not improving, but our son was experiencing a lot of health issues as well. We were sent to more than seven specialists and had dozens of tests,” said Kruger. “Apparently, he paid no attention to the notes and emails documenting these additional health issues. We were flabbergasted. Absolutely flabbergasted.”

“Fortunately, we had a ‘Plan B’ and quickly enrolled our son in a private school that has been much more supportive and able to accommodate his needs. After only seven months, he is reading on grade level. We had many roadblocks, but we always had a plan and knew what our next step would be. All along the way, I kept thinking, ‘This is taking every ounce of my professional expertise and parental energy … what do parents do who don’t have our background?’ ”

Kruger met Smigelski last summer. As Kruger learned about the services she provides, she knew, first-hand, how much they are needed. “I only regret I hadn’t met Karen sooner,” Kruger said. “We have a ‘happy ending,’ but it was an extremely stressful process. I would have loved having the insight of a family advocate to help us evaluate things objectively and affirm that we were on the right path. I should have been very confident, but with my own child on the line, I was a nervous wreck.”

There are so many parents with concerns and questions, but very few resources for families. Even concerned and proactive educators within the system are so strapped for time and resources that they cannot provide the level of intimate care and concern that a struggling family needs. Therefore, Kruger and Smigelski have teamed up to host a free, informative seminar: Bridge Night for Parents: Education Tips and Resources to Bridge School Gaps.

“Our goal is to provide practical and actionable strategies, but also help parents learn more about their options,” Smigelski explained. They also plan to share their stories and provide vindication for parents who are often left to feel like they are going crazy. “As my story evolved last year, I shared it with thousands of people through my newsletter,” Kruger said. “I received many, many emails from parents around the country who shared similar experiences. Karen and I want parents to trust their gut and know their options so they, too, can have a ‘Plan B.’ ”

FYI — Bridge Night for Parents: Education Tips and Resources to Bridge School Gaps is a free event that will be held 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7, at the Willows Edge facility in Lake Orion. Willows Edge is located just east of Lapeer Road at 81 Indianwood Road. For more information, visit WillowsEdge.net and StudySkills.com or call 248-834-0614.



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