When you first meet Xavier’s family, you learn that he and his mother live with her parents. Xavier’s grandmother “keeps” him during the day while his mom is at work. Xavier’s mother is very interested in early intervention but her mother is not. The grandmother thinks that he will talk when he’s ready and that there is nothing to worry about. On your first visit, she makes a point of telling you that she has raised 5 children and 3 were late-talkers and they are fine now. She wonders – out loud – if early intervention is just a scam to get insurance money…
Starting off on the Right or Wrong Foot…
As enthusiastic as we are about the work we do, it’s challenging when a family member does not share that view. It can be especially challenging when it becomes personal. The grandmother in this scenario is clearly an important person to have on your side, as far as supporting Xavier’s development. Even though she has her doubts, she is letting the service provider in her home and is being honest about what she thinks. It’s up to the service provider, then, to listen with an open mind, get to know her, find out what she wants for her grandson, and find a way to work together. Building a trusting rapport, being open to the grandmother’s expertise about raising children, and taking the opportunity to help her learn about early intervention are great places to start.
If you were supporting Xavier’s family, what would you do?
What would you say in response to the grandmother’s doubts?
Would you correct her and explain the research behind early intervention?
Would you call the service coordinator for assistance?
How would you partner with her to help Xavier?
Share your ideas and experiences with similar situations in the comments below!
One thing I like about this post is that it causes the early interventionist to pause and think about who are key decision-makers in every family. While Xavier’s mother is his parent, it sounds like possibly grandmother’s “vote” is a crucial factor for this family. Positive and good communication skills will be critical in providing good information to support the grandmother in making good and informed decisions.
I think probably one of the best ways to approach this situation would be with those “positive and good communication skills” you mention. It can be easy to pull back from a family member who doesn’t understand or believe in EI, but once you find a way to work together, everything can turn around!
I believe in acknowledging the grandmother’s feelings and letting her know that some children do speak later but we can work together and help him. I would acknowledge the great things she is doing with him too. We need to develop a rapport and trusting relationship with grandma and have her tell us what great things she is doing to help him.
I would completely agree, Valerie. Starting with acknowledging her feelings really is the best way to begin because feelings are so powerful and can certainly drive a person’s motivation. I also like how you said you’d want to acknowledge what she’s already doing. How would you go about finding out what she’s already doing with Xavier?
I would start building the relationship with the grandmother. Ask her about her children who were late talkers. I would ask about the different things they do during the day. I would tell her she is doing a great job of “talking to herself” while cooking or cleaning (if I see it) I think the relationship with the grandmother will be the first step in helping Xavier.
Absolutely, Laurie! You and Valerie both “hit it on the head” – that building that relationship with the grandmother and finding out what she is already doing with Xavier during the day are key. I love the example you gave of seeing her doing something that will encourage his communication development and pointing it out to her is a great strategy. I’m wondering how you would manage that last statement the grandma made about EI being a scam…how would you handle that with her? How would you reply?
Loving this discussion! As for the “scam” statement, I have had families in the past wonder if kids ever “do fine” or “catch up” on their own without early intervention. The teams that I have worked on took an honest approach and said that some children do catch up without outside supports, but that other children might not and then have an even harder time once they entered school. Giving families the pros of providing supports early vs. a “wait and see” approach is part of informed decision making!
I agree, Amy, that the honest approach is the way to go. It’s not always an easy decision for a family to participate in EI – with other family or work commitments, financial constraints, lack of support from other loved one or friends, etc. Figuring out if EI is the right decision can be hard but can be helped when we share what we know and let the family make the decision that’s right for them. Being open to questions, even hard ones like the “scam” comment, isn’t always easy for us either but is so necessary for that partnership to develop!