Partnerships with disability professionals: what to expect
When you combine your deep knowledge of your child with the expertise of professionals in the field of disability, you’re more likely to get a positive outcome for your child.
Ideally, your relationship with disability professionals is like any personal or business partnership and is based on:
- common goals
- shared power and responsibility
- appreciation of what each partner brings to the relationship
In a partnership, you make decisions together.
Partnerships often take time and open, two-way communication to develop. They begin with your first meeting with professionals.
You’re an expert on your child because you know them best. You also know your child as a ‘whole person’, so you know a lot about their needs.
Communication: the key to a successful partnership
These tips can help you get the most out of working with professionals.
Make sure you understand
- Ask any questions you have, even if the doctor or specialist 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.
- You don’t need to learn complicated professional jargon. Ask the professional to use language and terms that you can understand.
- 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.
- Include the date and time, people you spoke with or met, topics you discussed, and any action points.
- Ask for important decisions or other pieces of information to be formally noted in writing for you.
- Be honest and share any concerns you have.
- Share any 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 dealing 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 different disability professionals
If you’re working with disability professionals from different organisations, it’s important to be organised. This helps you make sure that different disability professionals all 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 with you 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.
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 as a chance 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.