About partnerships with disability professionals
Ideally, you can expect your relationship with disability professionals to be like any personal or business partnership. That is, it should be based on:
- common goals
- mutual trust
- shared power, responsibility and decision-making
- respect for and appreciation of each other.
You’re an expert on your child because you know your child best. You also know your child as a ‘whole person’. When you combine your expertise with the expertise of professionals in the field of disability, you’re more likely to get a positive outcome for your child.
Communication: the key to a successful partnership
Open, two-way communication is essential to your partnership with disability professionals, but it might take time to develop. These tips can help you develop good communication with disability professionals, starting from your first meeting.
Make sure you understand
- Ask questions, even if the professional seems rushed. It can help to write down your questions before the meeting so you remember to ask them.
- When you’re given information verbally, it can help to repeat it back to the professional to make sure you understand.
- Ask the professional to use language and terms that you can understand. You don’t need to learn complicated professional jargon.
- Avoid being pressured into agreeing to something if you feel uncertain. It’s OK to say that you need time to think things through before you respond.
- Take someone with you, like a family member, friend or advocate.
- Keep notes about your meetings with professionals, so that you have accurate information for yourself and other family members, or to share with other professionals.
- Ask another person to come with you to take notes if you think you might be busy with your child during meetings. Or ask to record the meeting so you can listen to it later.
- Record dates and times, people you speak with or meet, topics you discuss, and action points.
- Ask for important decisions or other pieces of information to be formally noted in writing for you.
- Be honest and share your concerns.
- Share information that you think will help the professional work more effectively with you and your child, including information about your family.
- Give feedback about the relationship – positive reactions and constructive criticism are useful and important.
- Discuss your own needs with the professional so they’re taken into account in decisions about what’s best for your child.
- Try to see the situation from the professional’s perspective as well.
- If you disagree with the professional, express your views and stick to the issue.
- Stay calm and respectful, but also make sure you make your point.
Make sure professionals listen to you. You have a lot of information about your child that any professional working with you or your child should want to know. If a professional doesn’t pay attention to what you say, you might want to find another professional.
Working with several disability professionals
If you’re working with several disability professionals or professionals from several organisations, it’s important to be organised. This helps you make sure that all the professionals understand your child and have the same goals for them.
Keep all forms, reports and documents on your computer, in a folder, or both. Have a note pad for taking notes from phone calls or meetings.
Take your folder with you to appointments so that you have the information handy if you need to update a professional about how another professional is supporting your child.
If your records are electronic, you might be able to bring a laptop with you to appointments or email the information to the professional beforehand.
You can also request that reports or letters from one professional are sent directly to other professionals who see your child.
When disability professionals leave services
Sometimes you and a professional have worked to build a good relationship and then the professional moves.
Most services will ensure that your new worker is given background information about you and your child. But you’ll probably have to tell your story again. Think of this as an opportunity to educate the new worker about your child’s history and your family situation and to highlight the things you think are important.
You might regret the loss of the previous relationship, but sometimes a new professional can bring a fresh approach and new ideas to working with your child.