Early interventionists know service coordinators wear several hats. We are advocators, coordinators, problem solvers, and mediators. Service coordinators are leaders in the IFSP process and active listeners to parents and providers. We have to be creative and sometimes think outside the box to help children reach their greatest potential.
Service coordination has many rewards and challenges. A few of the rewards we encounter include empowering our families and watching them advocate for themselves. It is also rewarding connecting families to resources and watching those resources enhance the life of the family. Along with the rewards also come conflicts. We deal with conflicts and manage difficult situations while keeping the process family focused. When team members (including the family) disagree the potential for conflict arises. A service coordinator handles these situations keeping the perspective on the priorities of the family and facilitating decisions that are in the best interest of the child and family.
So how do we begin to manage difficult situations?
Discuss with the family any changes within the family routine or family priorities that would impact service provisions.
Asking about changes that may be taking place can open up a new line of communication with a family. When a family is able to discuss changes whether positive or negative it empowers the family to make decisions about services that would be beneficial to the child as well as the family. This form of communication will assist in determining if services need to be reviewed, if outcomes need to be updated or changed, or if other supports and services need to be put in place.
Make sure you understand what the issue or concern really is.
Talk with the parent or the provider one on one to clarify issues and concerns. This conversation should be concrete, direct (in a professional manner) and clear. Prior to IFSP meetings have a detailed conversation with the parent and provider to ensure that you are prepared going into the IFSP meeting in case there are situations that need to be addressed.
Discuss ways to handle issues as a team.
Help the provider or family member figure out ways to deal with the situation so that everyone is comfortable with the outcomes. In most cases helping the family and/or provider figure out how to solve the issue themselves will not only give them skills to handle situations in the future but also empower them to speak out. A service coordinator’s job is to help facilitate the discussion in an honest and direct manner and model the ways to come to a resolution.
In cases where there are disagreements among team members and a decision is unable to be reached, it is alright to end an IFSP meeting, take a break and reschedule the IFSP meeting for another day.
This will give a chance for all team members to step back, think about everything that has been said and come back together calmly to make a decision. This will also give the service coordinator a chance to discuss the situation with all team members separately and revisit the facts.
Consider the following questions:
What strategies do you use when facing conflicts?
How might you implement one of the above strategies when faced with a conflict or difficult situation?