Who you trust, who you don’t and how to tell the difference.

Recently, we shared with you a a list of things people had said to families; the ignorant things that no family should have to hear.  The response to this post on social media was huge, with several families sharing their own experiences.

10731171_10152477331272309_2078228808027662509_nQuite by chance, Yvonne from The Special Parents Handbook also wrote a piece on the same day (How not to do Partnership Working) about her current experiences and we got to chatting later that week about this.  One of the things that struck us was how we all remember, without hesitation, the ignorant comments and the bad practice.

It's human to do this, irrelevant of who you are or what the comments related to.  I was watching an interview with Cindy Crawford the other morning (you would be surprised at what I watch at 3am when my son is showing me that sleeping is for wimps); she was talking about the reviews she received for her role in Fair Game.  One person said "totally unbelievable - as if she could be a lawyer" and she confessed that this was the only comment, out of all the reviews, that she remembered.  She wanted people to know that she graduated Valedictorian from High School, she felt it was important that people know she has brains as well as beauty - yes, at that point I turned over - but it did stick with me that this woman, who has great looks, brains, good health and financial security beyond what many people will ever comprehend, remembers the adverse comments more than she remembers the adoration she most certainly receives.

I am sure we all have a memory of a teacher who said something negative about our academic or sporting ability or a relative/friend who perhaps mentioned your weight, skin or outfit choice.  You know the one, they always start their observation with "don't take this the wrong way but."   When I hear those words, I want to stick my fingers in my ears and hum loudly but society says I can't so I just hum loudly in my head instead and nod.

In the Jungle, we will be faced with adverse, uneducated comments and views more than most.  This can lead to us tarring other practitioners in the same field with the same brush.  I personally have a dislike of a certain field of practitioners and I know this is all done to just one bad apple.  One practitioner who had no idea what my life was really like but believed that because they had been doing this job for so long that they did.   This was a practitioner who I dreaded having to have contact with as I knew I would sit through any meeting with them thinking "oh here we go, let's hear how much experience you have again, shall we?", or "oh that's right, let's speak in jargon shall we, so I feel inferior and inadequate"  Obviously, other words would go through my mind too but this is a family friendly site.  The problem with this sort of practitioner is that you never achieve anything for your child, the meetings are not productive because you are waiting to be frustrated or patronised.  It takes some time to get to the place where you know enough to challenge their opinions and views.  You get there but often by this point, you have had a negative experience and any new practitioner getting involved has a big challenge to address that doesn't involve your child.

I think we all know the type of practitioner I am talking about because, as our post shows, they are out there.

What about the good guys?

However, let's stop for a minute and think.  What about the good guys?  We know they are out there and, I believe, they probably outnumber the bad ones.  Sadly, though, the good guys aren't always in a position to change a policy or ensure our children are welcomed with open arms.  They don't have the authority to change a class plan or over rule a panel decision.

The good guys hopefully do outnumber the bad guys and I am sure that they are frustrated as we are by bad practice.  I am not saying they feel the same anguish and distress that bad practice brings to us but they must get well and truly hacked off when they have to work extra hard on building some trust with a family before they can really start to work with the child.  Think of that time that could be better spent.

Who are the good guys?

They are easy to spot.  They are the people who:

  • see your child as an individual and not a label
  • see your child and their possibilities and not just the challenges
  • greet you with a smile and not a grimace
  • talk with you and not at you
  • don't write copious notes throughout your chat because they are too busy really listening to you
  • review what was discussed at the end of the meeting and ensure you both agree with the next steps
  • listen to your suggestions and say "let's try that"
  • never say to you "we've always done it this way and this is the way we are doing it"
  • don't speak in jargon or acronyms
  • don't provide a jargon buster for you so they can continue to use jargon
  • know the dynamics of your family
  • realise that you have good and bad days
  • know you are fighting a system and not them personally
  • don't say "leave it with me" and never come back to you
  • don't consult you just to tick a box but because they genuinely want to know what you think or need

There are other ways to spot the good guys but here's a quick tip.  Actions speak louder than words, let them show you they are the good guys rather than just telling you they are.   Words are easy, action takes effort.

How do you define a good guy?  What does a practitioner have to do for you or your child?

Debs Aspland
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  1. Catherine Hall

    With sons aged 20, 17 & 14 affected to varying degrees by autism. I have had plenty of experience of a whole range of practitioners from the excellent to the useless. The ones to trust are the ones who are honest about what they can offer and admit to the limitations of a particular service. The ones that then deliver on what they have promised. The ones who treat you as an equal and listen to your views ( and your child’s). The ones who do treat a child as an individual with individual needs.
    The dangerous ones are the ones that won’t recognise or admit that they might possibly be wrong in their first opinion, the ones who simply don’t understand that there is more to the child that what they see in a clinic appointment or observe in a half hour visit to a classroom.
    Sometimes though the problem isn’t the individual but the limited resources and time tbey have. How do you build a relationship with a child and its family, how can you deliver a service if all you can offer is a half hour appointment once a year?

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