EI…IFSP…eligibility determination…Part C…outcomes…Part B…huh? Oral motor…abduction…sensory processing…cognition…what???
Okay, so it’s quite clear that we have our own language in early intervention. We have our own lingo (PDF, New Window) and our own technical jargon, and we are quite fluent in our language. This is normal for many fields, right? What may be different for us, though, is that the most important people with whom we interact – families – probably don’t speak our language, at least not initially. So how do you sound like a professional while ensuring that the most important people know how to navigate the EI process?
Sounding like a Professional
Sometimes, people feel that they demonstrate their proficiency in their profession by being able to use the language of that field with ease. This may be appropriate when talking with colleagues, but EI professionals don’t spend most of our time talking with colleagues. We collaborate with families for most of our work, so we need to be able to share our expertise using language that is understood by everyone.
I don’t actually think that we have to use all of our technical jargon to sound professional. I think a real professional in any field shows her knowledge best when she can translate it fluently into everyday language. There is nothing so important in our field that it cannot be explained and labeled with everyday words.
Watching Your Lingo
Ensuring that what you say is understood by everyone, especially your most important team members, probably comes down to two things: awareness of yourself and the ability to adapt to your environment. Let’s consider both.
Awareness of Yourself – Being aware of how you talk and when you use our EI language is the first step. Especially with new families, it is very important to be aware of the words you use to ensure that they understand what’s happening. Over time, you may shift to using more EI lingo, and this can be just fine as they learn the language. There is also a case to be made for teaching families EI, therapy, and special education lingo to prepare them for the future. If there is jargon that is specific to their child’s disability, then building the family’s capacity to understand it may be very helpful. Just make sure that when you use jargon with a family, it is for their benefit, is well-explained, and it’s clear that they understand it.
Adapting to the Environment – The ability to be flexible and adapt to any environment is one of our most important professional attributes. When we consider our language, we must be able to adapt it to the situation in which we find ourselves. Some families may be comfortable following along with more technical terminology, or become more comfortable over time, while others may not. Ensuring that families have the information they need to make informed decisions about their child’s intervention and their family’s role is such an important part of what you do…make sure your language conveys that!
Next time you catch yourself talking about “Part B” or suggesting the parent watch the toddler’s “tongue lateralization,” remember that what you say and how you say it matters. Be sure to watch your EI lingo!
How do you adjust your language when working with families and other care providers?
What strategies do you use to ensure that all team members understand each other?
Share your experiences and tips in the comments below!