When a Professional Says

When a Professional Says…
by Colleen F. Tomko

If a professional says…
A parent hears…
In my professional opinion… This is what I’m telling you to do, and I have the power to say so. I’m the professional, you are not. My opinion is better than yours. (Parents already know that you are the professional and that what you have to say is your opinion.) Ask the parents how they feel about something first, then state how you “feel”. Describe your thoughts, what it looks like, and then ask the parents again what they think. Remember that parents are the best experts on their own children.
You need to trust us… We are trying to get you to do what we want, please don’t question us. (Parents don’t need to trust you, and certainly not just because you say so. You need to earn their trust) Ask the parents what would make them feel comfortable with your actions. Offer other resources for information and support.
What you need to understand Mrs…. It’s my way because I say so, and my viewpoint is the only one that counts. (This may be the most condescending statement of all) Don’t assume that everyone must see things your way. You are one tiny fragment of a child’s life, the parents are in it for the long run. They are responsible for doing what is best for their child. Provide tools and accurate information for parents to make educated choices.
We love your child… Now that we say that we have this great love for your child, you should let us make the decisions for him. (You don’t love a child unless you are willing to stay up all night holding his head up if he is vomiting and donate a kidney if needed without a second thought.) No one should like, dislike or love a child because they happen to have a disability. You can enjoy things about him, appreciate and respect him, and even care for him, but as long as you are being paid to be with him, there is no love that compares to that of the parents.
This is only a draft, we can change things as we go…. We met without you and decided what your child’s goals should be. Because the law says so, we have to give you a chance to make changes and say that you’re a member of the team. We don’t want to spend a lot of time on this. If there is to be a rough draft have team members meet with the parents ahead of time to collaborate on goals, and give parents a copy of it before the meeting. Never bring a fully typed report that the parents were not a part of creating to a meeting.
I have a meeting to be at in one hour…. I’m here because I have to be, but I have more important things to do. I am a very important busy person and you are not. You should be thankful I made the time to attend your child’s meeting. Say things like, I apologize that I may not be able to stay as long as needed, if that happens, let’s plan another time to continue. I don’t want to rush this, we’ll take as much time as needed to create an appropriate plan for your child.
Our resources are limited… We are not going to provide what you are asking for, nor are we interested in pursuing this any further. Children with disabilities are not valuable enough to be a priority for resources. Parents know that resources are not unlimited, and they also know the law provides that children will receive a free and appropriate education. If you must say something about resources, talk about how you are going to work things out.
There is a great class/service over at… We don’t want your child here, he has to go to where the services are. The first consideration will be the label your child has and what place he fits into, not the regular class or preschool. Statements like these perpetuate categorical placements and segregated environments. Tell parents strategies and techniques that work. Give examples from other settings, and talk as a team about how to bring those supports and services to the child. Work together toward solutions and network with others who have successfully integrated similar supports and services into typical environments.
Other parents… Don’t make this hard on us, you should do things the way everyone else does. Face if you must be wrong. It doesn’t matter what other parents say or do. Encourage parents to make choices based on their own child’s needs and appropriate info.
We want to protect your child, don’t you want him to be safe? Your child is the problem, not our establishment. We really don’t want to change what we do, so, change or move your kid. Figure out how to incorporate safety into the environment and for all children. Address the hazards and barriers, adapt the environment to meet the needs of all children.
Written by Colleen F. Tomko
Material Copyrighted 1996 Kids Together®
May be copied for non-profit use only.  Please notify us of your intentions.
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