Wednesday, October 22, 2014

31 for 21: Professional Advice

31 for 21 challenge continues during Down syndrome Awareness Month with Wisdom Wednesday:

Not only am I a mom of a child with Down syndrome but I'm also a pediatric speech-language pathologist. This means I understand what it's like to be in both positions of the parent-professional relationship.

With that in mind, today I give you:

Advice for Professionals working with individuals Down syndrome:
1. First, if you don't know anything about Down syndrome, spend a few minutes reading about it. Learn some of the associated conditions like ear infections, vision issues, or sleep apnea that may impact the child's performance.

2. Be open to receive information from parents. Parents that attend conferences, go to support group meetings, and read books probably have came across something that you haven't. Be open to receive such information. You don't have to promise to implement anything. Just don't get offended if a parent tries to talk to you about something they have read. Always be willing to learn.

3. Understand that if the only time you are making contact with a parent is for bad things, then you are not going to have a good relationship with that parent. If you are only calling to complain about how the child won't do his work or to discuss an inappropriate behavior, the parent will feel you are very negative about their child. So if something positive happens, be sure to share that too. Write a note, make a call, send a text, take a picture and send it home. Parents like to hear about positive experiences!

4. Similarly, at meetings with parents, make sure you start off with something positive. Just don't talk about everything they can't do and challenges they have. Tell a story that reflects their personality, talk about something new they learned this year; just share something positive.

5. Use proper terminology. In America, we call it Down syndrome. It is not Downs or Down's. The s in syndrome is not capitalized. For more, read my post on person first language.

6. If there is a problem, do your best to describe it without labels. By that I mean, don't say, "She's just really stubborn and won't do her math work." Instead, tell exactly what happened. "When math time starts, the child refuses to get out her book. We tell her multiple times to get her book out, and she refuses to open her desk." Avoid words like stubborn or lazy. Just tell the facts and ask the parents if they have any insight into the problem or ideas that would motivate the child. For more on why I don't like the word stubborn, read my post on that.

7. If a parent is venting about their child's difficulties, please don't try to make them feel better by telling them about other children who are worse off. Just let them vent. Their feelings are probably justified. Believe me having a child with any sort of delay, changes the dynamic of the family.
     Now, if the parent asks for a reference point on how "severe" their child's delays are, then that's a different story. But, trying to cheer them up saying that their child isn't "that bad" when parents just need an understanding ear will not work.

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