From the time a baby or child is diagnosed with a hearing impairment or deafness, parents begin to relate to a broad range of professionals. For many families it can be daunting dealing with so many professionals, especially at a time when parents can be feeling quite vulnerable and emotional. It is also a time when many parents grapple with the extensive field of information associated with deafness and hearing impairment. Parents learn many new concepts and terms and are faced with important decisions that require them to have some understanding of how a hearing impairment/deafness may impact on their family, child's development, educational choices and future adjustment.
Tips for building a positive relationship with professionals
- Remember that you are the most important person for your child, being your child's parent and advocate and you know your child best.
- Hold in your mind your dreams and aspirations for you, your child and family.
- You may need to search for professionals that will truly listen to you and support your dreams and aspirations.
- Seek out professionals who are happy to share their expertise, with a genuine respect for your expert knowledge of your child.
- Try to be as informed as possible about your child's hearing impairment/deafness.
- Gaining knowledge will assist you making decisions, so feel confident to ask professionals and other parents as many questions as you need to understand relevant issues.
- Keep a diary and note important developments that your child achieves.
- Prepare for meetings with professionals by thinking as clearly as possible what you would like to achieve from each meeting. It is suggested that you write down your thoughts so that you can refer to them when needed and do not leave the meeting/appointment with unanswered questions.
- Organise a system to store information, contact details and reports.
- Try to keep full records of meetings or contacts with professionals.
- Try to feel comfortable to ask for explanations to support your understanding of your child's needs, strengths etc.
- Work towards becoming a more effective communicator. Be assertive with professionals (different from aggressive or submissive). To be assertive, try to think carefully about what you want to say and state it clearly. Allow the other person time to express their thoughts.
- At times, you may feel that professionals expect too much of you due to a lack of understanding of your personal circumstances. Try to maintain open communication, so that the professional and you develop a greater understanding of your needs and those of your child.
- Try to be tolerant of professionals that may not be perfect and accept that generally both professionals and parents are trying to do their best for children.
Participating in meetings
Following are some considerations when attending meetings about your child.
- If a two parent family, it is beneficial if both parents attend.
- Prior to the meeting talk with each other about what you expect out of the meeting; what questions you want answered and what you want to convey about your child and his/her progress.
- It is suggested that you write down the important points so that you can refer to them during the meeting, if needed.
- Avoid unnecessary stress before the meeting by trying to arrive on time. If it is an unfamiliar venue, find out all the details that you need, such as car parking etc.
- Find out how long the meeting is expected to last.
- If appropriate organise someone to care for you child, so that you can give your full attention.If your partner is not able to attend, a close friend or a professional person, whom you trust, may be supportive and help reduce your anxiety.
- Most parents report that with practice their confidence and communication skills greatly improve.
Parents organising meetings
There may be occasions when as a parent you wish to call a meeting to address a particular issue. Following are some points that you may wish to consider:
- You may ask one of the professionals whom you particularly trust to organise a meeting for you or you may wish to organise the meeting yourself.
- Preparing an agenda helps to focus one's thoughts on what you want to achieve from the meeting. It also allow others to prepare for the meeting.
- Decide who you want present at the meeting.
- It is usually advisable to request someone to take minutes, so that they can be distributed after the meeting, as a record of what information has been exchanged and if appropriate a plan of future action.
- A chairperson can be helpful, to keep people on track and on time.
- At the start of the meeting, introductions are important.
- A thank you to everyone for attending the meeting.
Team work is not always easy and it takes time, patience, good communication skills and humility from both parents and professionals. Professionals need to accept the limitations of their own wisdom and respect the parents - commitment to their dreams and aspirations for their child. Parents, however, need to consider carefully the information that professionals provide, so that they can make informed decisions about how to facilitate their child's language development, appropriate use of technological aids and a choice of educational options. Both parents and professionals need to value each other's time. If both parents and professionals prepare before each contact and communicate effectively, each other's time will be used wisely.
It is important to acknowledge on occasions, despite parents and professionals working together as a team, there may be considerable obstacles that appear to be insurmountable. At times there may not be adequate funding, or appropriate educational opportunities, captioning, or adequate door to door transport. Parent support groups can be a powerful ally at such a time and they may be able to offer assistance, support and guidance to you.
Early Childhood Services (HI)
Reprinted with permission.