Breaking Up Is Hard To Do
So, I’m at the office and I can’t help but overhear a Service Coordinator on the phone with an early intervention provider making the call – you know, the break up call. She tried everything to soften the news – scheduling conflict, goodness of fit, it’s not you, the family thinks you’re great…When she got off of the phone, this poor Service Coordinator looked drained, “I hate having to make those calls!” In a perfect world, there would be no need for these calls, right? Parents and early interventionists would work it out together. The day to day reality for many folks, though, is that that for a variety of reasons, parents often don’t feel comfortable and enlist the help of their Service Coordinator.
Don’t Take It Personally
I remembered back to the beginning of my practice, that “honeymoon period” when I didn’t even know what I didn’t know yet! Maybe that’s why I was so devastated the first time I got the call from a Service Coordinator that a parent of mine wanted to change providers…I didn’t handle the breakup well. Have you ever been in that position? It’s hard not to take it personally, right? Thankfully, I had a Supervisor and a peer group of professionals who could offer support and strategies based on their experiences.
Families Initiating a Break Up is a Good Thing – Wait – What??
Take a bow – when a family requests a change in their team makeup it’s because we have been doing our job!! Most of us don’t think all that much about procedural safeguards on a day to day basis; we hand out the booklets or pamphlets that our state’s system has created and make sure to document that the family has received information about their rights in early intervention. We revisit and remind families of these rights at different points in the process, checking off again that the information was given, but what do these rights look like in practice?
Here’s an Example: During her monthly contact calls, Leslie noticed Eva’s mom sharing concerns about one member of her daughter’s early intervention team. Leslie encouraged Eva’s mom to ask questions during her home visits, and share feedback and ideas from the home visits of another team member whose approach looked and felt a bit different. A suggestion was also made to invite both providers to one or two joint home visits in order to promote partnership and collaboration. When those efforts still didn’t improve the situation, Leslie reminded Eva’s mom about her right to request a change and encouraged her to have that conversation with the provider directly. After the switch was made, the Service Coordinator could have left it here, but Leslie then made it a point to provide Eva’s mom with feedback…”I know that might have been tough for you, but wow, you did such a great job advocating for your rights and what you felt was best for your family – Eva is lucky to have you in her corner!”
Aha Moments and Burn and Learns!
So here I am- fast forward 20 plus years later from that first traumatic break up in early intervention. Time, training, reflective supervision and all of the “aha moments” and “burn-n-learns” have shaped my practice along the way. I’m more aware of the critical components that define my partnerships with families and am grateful to those who shared their strategies with me along the way. Here a few I thought I’d share with you…
“Burn and Learn” – I needed to invest more time at the beginning of a relationship with a family before jumping into help giver mode. While it is totally understandable to want to feel useful and productive, many situations that result in Service Coordinators needing to intervene stem from mismatched communication. Take the time when you first meet a family to establish shared expectations!
“Aha Moment” – Families won’t provide me with feedback if I don’t build that into our time together. Sometimes the best thing to happen during a home visit is for a strategy or suggestion you make to be unsuccessful! Together you can say, “well, that didn’t work” and begin to wonder why, what could be done differently or what else could be tried. This also helps families feel comfortable sharing not only what worked but what didn’t work as well during the week in between visits!
As a Service Coordinator, how have you handled it when a parent expresses concerns about another team member? What has worked well for you in the past? Do you have any “aha moments” or “burn and learns” you could share to help others?
As an Early Intervention Provider, what experiences have you had with either a family requesting a change or getting a break up call from a Service Coordinator? Do you have any “aha moments” or “burn and learns” you could share to help others?
Resources to Add to Your Bag of Tricks:
Assuring the Families Role on the Early Intervention Team: Explaining Rights and Safeguards (PDF, New Window) (NECTAC)
Virginia Resource: Notice of Child and Family Rights and Safeguards Including Facts about Family Cost Share (PDF, New Window)
Amy Cocorikis has been lucky enough to spend her career learning from infants and toddlers with special needs and the families who love them. She has also been fortunate to have worked with and learned from the many talented providers of all disciplines who shared their time and gifts with their team members. Her dedication to the teaming process, desire to grow and keep current in the field, and commitment to learning from and teaching others through professional development and training continues to fuel her passion for early intervention. Amy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org