Maybe you’ve been working in early intervention for many years and you’re great at what you do. Or perhaps, you’re brand new to the field and eager to try out your skills. In either position, it can be a struggle to get out there and find that you need to release your role to someone else, whether it be to a colleague who’s acting as a primary service provider (PSP) or to the parent. Role release can be a struggle for even the most confident of early interventionists.
Why is Role Release a Struggle?
We love to play with babies. This was probably the hardest thing for me to let go of as I learned role release. Teaching someone else how to do what I knew I could do really well was hard. Plus, it meant that I wasn’t necessarily the one who would get to interact with that cute little person, and that felt like a bit of a loss.
We worked hard to develop our knowledge and skills. At my very first conference presentation, I was teaching about collaborating with other professionals and families and a woman approached me afterwards, clearly shaken and unhappy. She waited in line for her turn to demand how she was supposed to teach a parent everything it took her years of graduate school to learn. Clearly she was struggling, but that was actually a good thing because the presentation made her think. We have worked very hard to hone our skills and knowledge, but we are only with the family for what amounts to 1-2% of their week. If we can’t share what we know with the parent, then the work that we are so dedicated to won’t really have much of an effect on the child’s development. Sharing what we know spreads the possibilities out and increases the chances of farther reaching effects, which is REALLY what we trained for.
We don’t always trust that others can do what we can do. It’s a difficult thing to trust. Trusting in someone else to take what you know and implement it is pivotal to the early intervention relationship – between the PSP and the consultant, between the provider and the parent. Without trust, there’s an assumption of expertise that can only be provided by the expert. This, again, is limiting and most often just plain wrong. When it all comes down to it, there is no real magic. What works in early intervention is working together, learning about families, and problem-solving to develop intervention strategies that fit the child’s abilities and the family’s life. What you learned in graduate school were techniques and information; when you share your role with others, you take what you learned and adapt it to the uniqueness of the child and family. You can’t do that if you don’t trust and share.
So How Do We Get More Comfortable with Role Release?
Here are a few ideas:
1. Get to know your colleagues – Spend time together. Talk about your experiences and backgrounds. Join visits, observe, and learn from each other. Build trust and rapport with your fellow interventionists, just like you do with families.
2. Trust families – They really do know their children best and know what happens in their everyday life better than you ever could. Build a partnership and, if you have even an ounce of it, let go of the “…but I’m the expert” attitude. Your job will be so much more meaningful and impactful if you trust those you trained to collaborate with.
3. Practice sharing what you know – Be there for your colleagues and families as a consultant when needed. Practice sharing and teaching others. I truly believe that all of us in early intervention are teachers, regardless of our disciplines. We teach each other and parents teach us.
4. Understand that role release really means role sharing – Maybe “release” isn’t really the best term because it implies that you’re giving away something you might not get back. My professor (I’m in grad school) likes the term “role sharing” and maybe that’s a softer way of emphasizing the give-and-take of the collaboration. We aren’t trying to turn parents into therapists and I wasn’t trying to turn colleagues into early childhood special educators. We were sharing what we knew to build meaningful intervention strategies that worked for families by sharing our knowledge and skills.
Role release is a critical component of successful early intervention. Take a moment to reflect on your own feelings about releasing your role, or sharing it with others. Why is it hard?
What strategies have you used for collaborating with others and sharing your wealth of knowledge? Do you have an example to share of when role release was a challenge or when it was a great success? Let us know!