Early Intervention Strategies for Success

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  • Third Visit in a Row and No One Answers the Door…What Do You Do?(current)

Blue DoorwayKnock, knock…wait…knock again…check your watch…knock again…wait…leave a note because no one’s home. This is the third no-show in a row and you drove 35 minutes to get to the home. Sigh. What do you do?

It’s easy to get frustrated when a family no-shows, especially when you see a pattern of missed visits. It’s also easy to think things like “well, they must not care” or “they aren’t interested.” Before jumping to negative thoughts like this, it’s always a good idea to step back and look at the situation. There could be any number of reasons for no-shows. When no-shows happen, ask yourself these questions:

If it’s just one visit:

Could the parent have forgotten? Could there be an emergency that led to the no-show? – Be patient and work with the parent to get the visit rescheduled.

If you’re seeing a pattern of missed visits:

Is the visit scheduled at a good time for the parent? – If not, find another space in your schedule or link the parent with another interventionist who can better accomodate the family’s schedule.

Does the parent see value in what is happening on the visit? – Consider a typical visit with the family. Are you facilitating each visit so that the parent understands his role and the purpose of each visit? Are you helping the parent feel comfortable being an active participant? OR are you playing with the child while the parent is texting friends? Look at what you’re doing first and make changes if needed.

Are we addressing what is really important to the parent? – A really important point – go back to the IFSP (with the service coordinator) and revisit the goals. Are they really based on the family’s priorities or are they “therapy” goals? Maybe priorities have changed so goals and intervention need to change too.

Is there a good match between the parent and the service provider (which may be you)? – Many parents aren’t comfortable saying that they don’t like the interventionist or that they think the interventionist is ineffective. This is where the service coordinator comes in. The service coordinator can join a visit with the interventionist to observe then stay afterwards to talk to the family about how things are going. Talk about the no-shows and try to get to the heart of the problem. Let the parent know that it’s okay to switch providers or change the IFSP. If you are the interventionist and you don’t think it is a good match, talk to the service coordinator.

Are there other crises or issues in the parent’s life that interfere with visits? – Step back and look at what you know about the family. If they are facing homelessness then being home for your visit versus being out looking for a place to live…well, you can see the priority there. Again, talk to the service coordinator for support. Maybe intervention services need to be reduced or put on hold during the period of crisis.

Is the parent just not interested? – This really could be the issue so when other potential reasons have been explored, it’s worth asking the parent if he is still interested in his child being in the program. If the answer is yes, then have an honest discussion about your concerns and work together to find a solution. Adjust your schedule with the parent if needed and be sure that he has a way to reach you to cancel appointments. If the parent really isn’t interested, then graciously bow out and let him know that he can call you anytime to resume services.

Whatever the reason for the no-show, remember that you are not walking in that parent’s shoes. Before pointing the finger at the family, look at what YOU are doing first. Approach the issue with patience and curiosity and remember that good communication is often the key.

What other strategies do you use when a family no-shows?

4 comments on “Third Visit in a Row and No One Answers the Door…What Do You Do?

  • Since I work in a different state than I live in, most of my drives are 30-60 minutes. I just adopted a rule of not going anywhere unless I had contacted the parent via phone or text the night before or the morning of the session. This heads off most of the last minute cancellations and provides a convenient time to reschedule if needed.

    • Touching base before you head out the door is a great idea, Cheryl! Since many of the families we see have lots of other commitments (doctor appointments, day jobs, etc.) I think a check-in is often appreciated by the family too.

  • Brenda Laws says:

    It’s good not to take it too personal when a parent is not home or not answering the door. After the IFSP is developed, some families may have questions and second thoughts so actually listening to the family when persistant no shows happen is very important.

    • Excellent point, Brenda, because it’s really easy to take it personally when families don’t show or don’t answer the door. Stepping back and listening without judgement can also be a powerful way to build rapport with a family too.


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