*This post is written from my own experience and is a reflection of how I and some other parents I have spoken to have felt when dealing with professionals by the time things had reached crisis point. I am not claiming to speak for all SEND parent or that all send parents would of had this experience or felt this way.*
I consider myself to be a reasonable person with a wide range of life experience, good communication skills and, although not a ‘high achiever’, I am educated to a sufficient standard to be articulate and express my views in a non confrontational way.
I have friends an acquaintances from all walks of life, professionals, business people, musician, artists, teachers, farmers, doctors, nurses, carers and single mothers and fathers. I have worked for MENCAP and Home start, been a teaching assistant, a respite centre team leader, a small business owner and a senior support worker in mental health. In short I considered myself a fairly well rounded, open minded, capable and unflappable person.
Until that is I had to battle for years just to be heard by professionals about the needs of my SEND child.
What a professional entering a room and meeting a parent of a child with a SEND for the first time does not realise is all that has gone before. Yes they may have the notes and/or a summery of events but (even presuming they have had the time to read it) it does not represent the full picture.
It does not show;
- If parent has met professionals who may of repeatedly dismissed concerns or who accused the parent of making things up and crushed that parent who didn’t want to ask for help but did so for the welfare of their child.
- Any hurt a parent has felt when they feel a personal connection of human understanding has been made with a professional and they have put all their trust into them only to be let down when that same professional hasn’t followed through or has left or passed their case on or withdrawn services without explanation.
- How many times a person like them has walked into a room saying ‘I know you have felt let down before but this time it will be different’ only for them to let you down again.
- The hours that may of been spent waiting for a phone call that never comes or making calls that are not answered and not returned.
- the likelihood of lost sleep worrying about a child who is crying out for support that is not coming.
- the words that may of been spoken to a parent by their child at home or the way it could make that parent feel as they get increasingly desperate going from ‘please can you tell them I find it hard mummy’ to ‘you said they were going to help mummy’ to ‘I can’t cope mummy’ to ‘I hate you for sending me there, it is like torture mummy’ to ‘don’t make me go mummy, I will fight you’ and finally to ‘I want to die’.
- Hurtful things that may of been said in the past such as those I blogged about here; 10 Ridiculous ‘Reasons’ Not To Listen To Parental Concerns.
It doesn’t measure the slow drip, drip, drip as the patience, hope and faith slowly drains away…
So if you were that professional coming into that room and being introduced to ‘mum’ or ‘Dad’ you may see a respectable looking and perhaps stressed parent. As the meeting went on some of the things you might perceive are negativity, defeat or defensiveness, aggression or a sarcastic nature, overly emotional or anxious responses, over protection, angry or seemly unreasonable attitudes, pushy or impatient comments and most of all a lack of trust in you/and or your service.
You might think at this point that this parent had an attitude problem and, judgment made, your attitude in turn might change.
Meanwhile the parent will likely be thinking to themselves;
‘I hope I can trust this one’
‘I have to make them understand this time, I feel am letting my child down’
‘I know I am coming across as defensive but they are throwing it back to me again. Oh god, they must think I am an awful parent’
‘I have heard all this before but they never follow through.’
‘Why do they seem irritated, I just need support.’
‘The meeting is nearly over, I have to make them understand, my child is slipping away.’
‘I can not let my child down again, why won’t you help him/her’
‘Please hear me.’
So as a professional please remember that;
1. This parent can not switch off, go home to a quiet life or forget about what is happening because it is their child and family life. They would probably rather be anywhere than in this room right now.
2. Their life or the life of their child could literally depend on the outcome this meeting or the work you do or don’t do with them. Their short, medium and/or long term outcomes are in your hands.
3. Parents respond best to people who are being human not those who are projecting a purely professional persona. Most parents would prefer to hear the truth rather than excuses, blame shifting or flannel.
And for our part? As parents in often difficult circumstance we can only do our best but having an advocate, getting support, coming prepared, being realistic about outcomes and remaining as calm and polite as you can should help you get the most out of professionals. Practice being aware of how you are coming across and employ a counsellor or learn relaxation techniques if you feel this would help.