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Tips for Working With Professionals

  • If you are not sure about how to talk with teachers and other professionals, enlist the help of an advocate. If you’ve been invited to a meeting, bring someone with you for moral support such as your spouse, a friend, or another parent. Contact the Client Advocate at your Community Mental Health Center.

  • Working with the school or with another agency can be very emotional because this is your child. It's easy to feel defensive or angry. Instead of lashing out in anger, try to describe your needs in terms of what will help your child, not in terms of how you feel.

  • Learn to recognize any personal habits or attitudes that get in the way of effective communication or keep you from being taken seriously.

  • If you are troubled about a decision that was made about your child, call or send a note as soon as possible. When you confront problems early, you may be able to keep them from turning into a crisis.

  • Inform teachers or mental health professionals immediately of any unusual circumstances occurring at home. Stress at home can affect your child’s behavior outside the home.

  • Be positive and enthusiastic. This can help you get your point across or convince people to try something new.

  • Be very up-front and give professionals factual information about your child's needs. Explain the reasons why you want something done, then suggest ways to do it.

  • Stay well informed so professionals will listen to you and respect your opinion. Make sure you have all the facts before going into a confrontation. Do research. Know your rights.

  • If you feel that decisions are being made without you, call and ask to be included in discussions. This is your right.

  • Make a list of things you want to say before you go to a meeting and take the list with you. Many parents feel confident before the meeting, but get nervous and forget what they want to say when they go into the meeting.

  • Make sure you have enough time to talk about important issues. Try to get placed on the agenda early in the meeting, so the meeting doesn’t end before you’ve had your say.

  • Write letters or make calls to say "thank you" when things are going well.

  • Maintain a "we" attitude. Ask how "we" can work together to solve a problem.

  • Support the people who work with your child even when things aren't going well. Encourage them to keep trying. Let them know how much you appreciate their efforts on your child's behalf.

  • Be aware that parents have a lot of power. Don't wait two months to check in for results. If a problem is not solved quickly, work on it. You may be able to help your child's teacher resolve something much faster. Work as a team.