How to communicate and collaborate with specialists to help your child succeed
If you’re like many parents, you’re likely feeling pulled in many directions and concerned that you’re not able to give your child everything they need. If your child is having difficulties in specific subjects in school or due to executive function challenges (or they need mental, physical, and/or speech/language therapy), maybe you’ve determined that they require more specialized help than you’re able to give. Or maybe you have the skills and have tried your best to help, but you’ve conceded that your child might respond better to someone who is not their parent. (This is very common, by the way!)
While you may feel uncomfortable hiring outside experts, the good news is there are still important things you can do to help ensure your child receives high-quality support.
Here we share how to build communication and collaboration with your child’s specialist(s). We’ve found that starting the process before or soon after services begin is important to your child's success in meeting their goals.
Find the right match
Let’s assume you’ve gotten referrals for specialists from people you know, including friends, relatives, or even other practitioners who have had a good experience with the specialists. Should you just go ahead and schedule the first session with whoever has availability in their schedule?
Before signing on the dotted line, have consultation calls with more than one prospective specialist.
Why? Speaking with several service providers will help you determine the best fit for your child’s personality and needs. The conversations will help you get a feel for the specialists’ levels of expertise and experience, their communication styles, “bedside manner,” and approach. If conversations feel awkward or strained, trust your instincts and don’t commit to beginning services with a provider until you find one who makes you feel comfortable.
Ideal specialists are not only experts at helping students build their particular skills but also at developing strong, trusting relationships with both parents and students.
Share, share, share
During an initial consultation call or a longer intake session, it is vital for specialists to have a full understanding of your child so they can determine the best course of treatment or services. Take the opportunity to share the following information with the specialist:
Your child’s strengths and weaknesses
Your child’s needs
What you hope to achieve through services with the provider (your goals)
Other services your child is receiving (or may need)
Your child’s early development, including any developmental delays, disabilities, or health issues
Neuropsychological, educational, or other testing reports (such as hearing, vision, speech/language, etc.), report cards, teacher and other specialists’ feedback
Notable information about your child’s family background and home environment
Some specialists may charge a fee for consultations and to review your child’s records while others may not. Either way, it is important for the specialist to understand your whole child so they can have a good sense of where to start services and how to relate to your child as they begin to work together.
It is possible that during an initial consultation, you or the specialist may discover that they may not be the best fit for your child’s needs. Some specialists might even refer you to other service providers. By sharing sufficient information early in the process, you might be able to spare time going down the wrong path.
Have two-way, consistent, ongoing communication
Right from the start of services, you should know what your child and the specialist are doing together and how things are going. Quantitative (numerical) and qualitative (descriptive) data are important for tracking progress, determining when to change tactics or approaches, and highlighting strengths and challenges. As a client, you are entitled to receive feedback from service providers on your child’s progress.
Providers can provide feedback in various ways, from a few words at the door when you pick up your child to typed reports. At the initiation of services (or during the consultation call) ask your child’s specialist how they share feedback. Some routinely share notes after every session, others once per month, and others only upon request.
Because it takes time and effort to compile notes and meet with clients, some providers may charge an extra fee for writing detailed reports and holding in-person or virtual feedback sessions with parents.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions about your child’s sessions, their progress, or even their behavior.
Providers want to hear good things about their clients and learn about what’s going on in their lives that may impact services or help them determine a new course to follow. Share your child’s grades, feedback from teachers and other specialists, and things going on at home or in your child’s social life (if appropriate!).
Share your concerns about your child or the services they’re receiving. Seasoned specialists will be willing to discuss your concerns and collaborate to find a way to resolve them. Soon after a problem has been identified, it is important to share it with the specialist so you can discuss it with them and come to a timely solution.
Connect members of the team
When children have challenges, it often turns out they end up with a “team” of specialists. If the individuals who work with your child are not already collaborating, it can be beneficial to connect your child’s team members and request that they communicate about your child’s progress.
You may request your child’s specialists collaboratively determine factors that may be amplifying or hindering your child’s capabilities and work together to create a plan of action to strengthen your child’s weaknesses.
You may also decide to invite specialists to participate in 504 or IEP meetings. Being familiar with one another and their work will help the specialists develop a unified support team for your child. Just keep in mind that because it takes time and effort for specialists to prepare for and attend meetings, some providers may charge extra fees for these activities.
What do communication and collaboration mean at EYS?
At EYS, we take a very personal approach to working with every client. Communication is important to us beginning with our initial contact with every potential client. The more we are aware of your child’s needs and individual circumstances, the better we can help. How do the EYS providers communicate and collaborate with our clients and their teams?
We hold complimentary 15-minute consultations with every prospective client, during which we aim to learn about the individual needs of each student and share how we can help them
We review students’ testing reports and other relevant information provided by parents and members of students’ teams
We make every effort to respond to emails, texts, and phone calls from clients within 24 hours
We provide written session summaries to parents and other team members (as requested by parents) after each session
We meet with parents to discuss concerns and provide support
With parent permission, we collaborate with other professionals on children’s teams to help build a holistic, wrap-around approach to helping students succeed in school and life
We participate in meetings at schools (such as IEP, 504, and planning meetings)
We invite you to schedule a complimentary consultation to discuss how we can help your child. We look forward to hearing from you!