Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Tips for Families Working with Professionals

Families are a huge part of the life of a child with a disability, and a lot of times that means family members are directly involved with all types of professionals who support the child. The following was developed to help families work with these professionals.

  • Become as knowledgeable as possible about your child. Read as many books and articles as you can. Attend lectures and workshops. Become involved in a parent group.
  • You know your child better than anyone else. Professionals know more about their profession than you do. But you know your child best. Each of you have a special knowledge that can help your child.
  • Everyone responds better when treated respectfully. It is important for both you and the professional to be equal members of the team. You can both help your child best if you work together as a team.
  • Before an appointment, write down questions about the things you want to discuss with the professional. Bring the notes with you. Be specific and use examples whenever you can. Write down the answers as they are given. You may not be able to remember everything later.
  • Ask the professional to explain things to you if you do not understand the terms or acronyms being used. Don't be embarrassed to ask for an explanation. You need to know what is being said.
  • If you do not understand how the professional came to a conclusion, ask for the specific reasons behind it. A recommendation will always make more sense if you clearly see what led to it. Continue to ask questions until you understand the professional's thinking.
  • Do not be afraid to disagree with professionals about their recommendations for your child. You know your child in a way they cannot. If you think what they are suggesting will not work for your child, talk about it. Remember, you are a team.
  • Explain your point of view in a calm, courteous way. If you are calm, rather than angry when expressing your opinion, the professional will be much more likely to see you as a partner who has a different point of view rather than as a "difficult parent." It is okay to disagree, to express emotion, cry or be angry, but if you are feeling "out of control," it may be better to take a break or to stop and schedule another meeting.
  • Parents and professionals should respect each other's time. It is important to make an appointment and be punctual. You need to ensure that both you and the professional have enough time to meet and thoroughly discuss any problems.
  • If you need more time with the professional, say so. One appointment may not be long enough to get all your questions answered. The professional should be willing to schedule more time to meet with you. Ask for the best time to make an appointment for a longer talk with the professional.
  • Keep in contact with the professionals involved with your child. Suggest and schedule meetings on a regular basis, as agreed upon by both you and the professional.
  • Keep all of your child's important records in a safe place. You will need to refer to them often. This will help professionals know your child's history so they do not do things over again. Keep all of these records in a box, a notebook, or a file to help you remember what educational, medical, therapy and/or social services your child has received.
  • Encourage members of your child's professional team to talk with one another. Part of your job is to make sure all the professionals in your child's life are communicating with each other.
  • Professionals like to know when they are doing a good job. A "thank you" can mean a lot and will go a long way towards guaranteeing that they continue to do the best job for your child.
  • If you cannot work things out with a professional directly, you may need to discuss your problems with their supervisor. Make sure you have made every effort to resolve things with the professional before you see the supervisor.
  • If you have tried all of the above and still cannot work effectively with the professional, think about changing to a different person. Sometimes people simply cannot get along. If you have done the best you can and still do not feel comfortable with a professional, you will be better off finding someone else to help your family.

Adapted from 16 Tips for Dealing with Professionals written by the Parent Involvement Committee of the Hamilton County Family and Children First Council, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1994.

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