for Working with Professionals
the American Association
for Home Based Early Interventionist
As parents, we are responsible for our child's
well-being, in all areas of their lives. Parents are typically involved
with several professionals and have to coordinate their services.
It can be challenging at the best of times-especially if the child
has special needs. May and June each year seem to bring an increase
in the number of meetings to plan services for the following school
year. So, take a few minutes to see if any of these tips might help
you better implement a team approach and obtain the appropriate services
for your child.
Here are 16 tips to help parents work effectively with
1. Please treat me as an equal. You have a right
to be treated with courtesy and respect, just as professionals do.
Everyone responds better when treated respectfully. You, the parent,
know the most about your child. You deserve to be treated as an equal.
2. Let's solve this problem together so we can figure
out the best plan of action. You and the professional are partners
in working out your child's problems. You can both help your child
best if you work together as a team rather than as people from opposite
sides. Make sure the person who can make the decision will be present
at the meeting. This will save time, even if you have to re-schedule
an initial meeting in order to make it happen.
3. Let's share our information so we can come up
with the best solutions. Professionals may know more than you
about their profession, but you know your child best. You each have
special knowledge that can help your child. Power is knowledge, so
learn about the issues that affect your child. Solutions come through
sharing information, and sometimes compromising.
4. Here's a list of the questions I'd like to discuss
with you today. Be as clear as possible. Before an appointment,
make notes to yourself of things you want to discuss with the professional.
Bring the list with you. Be specific and use examples whenever you
can. Many people forget what they want to say when they're nervous.
A list will help you remember. Write down the answers as you get them
or ask at least 24 hours prior to the meeting to audio tape it. You
may not be able to remember everything later.
5. I don't understand these terms. Could you explain
them to me? Ask the professional to explain things to you in plain
English if you don't understand the terms being used. Sometimes professionals
talk in their own "language" and use words that only people
in their field understand. Don't be embarrassed to ask for an explanation.
You have the right to know exactly what they are saying. After all,
it's your child they're talking about.
6. I'm too upset (... or whatever) to continue right
now. 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. Most professionals are really trying to help your child.
It's okay to disagree, express emotion, cry or be angry. But, if you
are feeling "out of control," it may be better to end early
and schedule another meeting.
7. In many cases, that might be the right approach,
but I don't think it would work for my child because . . . You
may disagree with professionals about their recommendations for your
child. Don't be afraid to say so. Professionals are only human. Sometimes
they are mistaken. You know your child in a way they can't. If you
think what they're suggesting won't work for your child, for whatever
reason say so! Based on your input, professionals may change their
8. I still don't understand why you think that.
If you don't understand how the professional came to a conclusion,
ask for the specific reasons behind it. A recommendations will always
make more sense if you clearly see what led to it. Continue to ask
questions until you understand the professional’s thinking. Know that
you may still not agree. State your opinion as clearly as you can
and move on to the next topic. You can always return to this issue
later, but don’t forget to come back to it to get a resolution,
9. I’m glad we’re both on time so we can get as much
done as possible. Parents and professionals should respect each
other's time. Like you, professionals can get very busy. That's why
it's so important to make an appointment and ensure that both of you
have enough time to meet and thoroughly discuss any problems. Then
try to be on time. If either of you is late to a meeting, it may make
you both late for the rest of the day. Call if you will or may be
late. Establish the length of the meeting ahead of time, so that each
of you can plan your time wisely. Understand that it may take more
than on meeting to complete your business.
10. I think we need to discuss this more. Let’s find
another time to get together. If you need more time with the professional,
say so. If one appointment isn't long enough to get all your questions
answered, the professional should be willing to schedule more time
to meet with you. It may mean having to set another meeting on another
day, but you have a right to get complete, clear information about
11. When would it be useful for us to visit again?
Keep in regular contact with any professional involved with your child.
In some instances, it's important to see a professional on a regular
basis if you are going to get the best for your child. Check with
professionals to see how often they recommend you contact them.
12. My child had his last shot in January. Find
a safe place to keep all of your child's important records. Professionals
often need to know your child's history so they don't do things over
again. Keep all of these records in a box or file to help you remember
what services your child received, from whom and when.
13. Have you talked to my child's doctor to make
sure what you're suggesting is okay? Encourage members of your
child's professional team to talk with one another. Remember, professionals
who work on behalf of your child will perform better if they are working
as part of a team rather than all alone. Part of your Job as the "coach"
of your child's team is to make sure the "players" are communicating.
14. Thanks for all your help; it's really made a
difference for my family. If you are pleased with a professional,
say so. Just like everyone else, professionals like to know
when they are doing a good job. A simple "thank you" can
mean a lot and will go a long way toward maintaining a positive working
relationship. This one cannot be emphasized enough. Professionals
need to hear from you when things are going well, not just when there
are issues to resolve.
15. What is your supervisor's name? If you can't
work things out with a professional, you may need to discuss your
problems with a supervisor. Make sure you've made every effort
to resolve things with the professional before you see a supervisor.
16. I don't think this is working out. Could
you suggest someone else who might be able to help me? If you have
tried all of the above and still cannot resolve your differences 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 who is working
with your child, you'll be better off finding someone else to help
you. Remember, that professionals just like parents can get their
feeling bruised, so make the change kindly and with your child’s best
interest driving the change.
The original tips were developed in 1994 by the Parent
Involvement Committee of the Hamilton County Family and Children First
Council located in Ohio. These tips were reprinted in a colorful brochure
by Starting Point of the Montgomery County Early Intervention Consortium
but can no longer be purchased. The original tips have been enhanced
and expanded upon. (They are used with permission from the Parent
Involvement Committee of the Hamilton County Family and Children First