For many parents, the way a professional delivers a service is just as important as the service itself. Expect the professional to talk openly and respectfully with you and to listen to what you say. If you’re having trouble agreeing, a professional service should provide a way for you to resolve any disputes.
What to look for in a professional
Your professional should be competent, skilled and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. Your relationship with the professional is more likely to be successful if the professional has the following qualities. The professional should:
- be family-centred – that is, take the needs of the whole family into account when working with you and your child. He should be focused on finding solutions that work not only for your child but for the whole family. Expect him to ask lots of questions about how your family works
- seek out your family’s strengths and build on them
- see your child as a person and look beyond the disability
- pay attention to what your child can do, not just what she can’t do, and build on her strengths
- relate respectfully and appropriately to your child
- set achievable goals and tasks so they aren’t overwhelming
- be courteous and respectful to you
- listen to your concerns
- allow enough time to explain why you need certain meetings
- give you information or other resources in a form that’s useful to you
- refer you to other services where appropriate (including other professional services and support groups)
- talk to other professionals involved with your child (with your consent)
- work with you as a partner on behalf of your child
- have a creative approach to developing strategies so they fit in as much as possible with the daily life of your family
appreciate your role as an advocate for your child
- invite you to share information you’ve gathered
- encourage you to voice your opinions, ask questions, share your views and make suggestions
- show pleasure in your child’s progress and achievements.
It can be easy to feel overshadowed by professionals or to feel you’re handing your child over to them, but your role is important. You might worry you’ll be seen as ‘difficult’ if you push for what you want. But you’re the person who knows most about your child and has the greatest commitment to him. Don’t agree to anything you aren’t happy with, are unsure about or find confusing.
The professional’s relationship with your child
Whether your child is a young baby or an older child, expect the professional to:
- be able to interact easily with children
- talk directly to your child when necessary
- say things about your child that are helpful and appropriate for her to hear, and avoid talking about her as though she isn’t present, even when talking to you
- be sensitive to your child if she’s displaying any signs of being uncomfortable, either verbal or nonverbal, and respond appropriately.
What to do if you disagree with your professional
Sometimes you’ll disagree with the professionals you work with. Here are some steps to take if you need to resolve a disagreement.
- Speak directly to your professional. Most of the time you’ll be able to figure things out between you. The stronger your relationship, the easier it will be to work things out.
- Make a special appointment to talk about things that are worrying you. It’s difficult to have a serious discussion in a casual encounter or when your child is present.
- These tips for communicating might be helpful during your discussion:
- Say honestly and tactfully what’s bothering you.
- Be specific about your concerns.
- Avoid criticising the professional or the service the professional works for. You’re much more likely to get a helpful response if the professional feels you’re working together.
- Listen to what your worker is saying about the issue – the professional should have your child’s best interests at heart, just as you do. Try to see the situation from the professional’s perspective, because she might have some interesting ideas.
- If the matter is a very serious one, bring someone along to help. Let the professional know in advance you’re bringing someone else with you.
- If you’re still unhappy, make an appointment to speak to the professional’s supervisor, team leader or manager. Most services have policies and procedures in place to resolve differences between parents and staff members. Keep notes so you can accurately remember what happens.
- If you’re still not satisfied, contact the head office or regional office of the service.
- If you still feel your concerns haven’t been addressed, make an appointment to see your local member of parliament.
What guides a professional’s behaviour?
Most of the people you work with will belong to a professional association. These associations usually have a code of professional practice or ethical (or practice) standards which outline their professional responsibilities. Some examples of these are:
You might want to ask your professionals how the service measures client satisfaction and monitors the service they provide. Most services have a committee responsible for client satisfaction and ways of getting feedback from parents.