The Top 10 Take-aways for CSD Work With Families

familyportraitAccording to my dusty hardcover Webster’s dictionary, a family is defined as: All the people living in the same house; household, 2) a social unit consisting of parents and the children they rear…” (Neufeldt, V, 1988). Since this was dated, I thought I should go to The Free Encyclopedia – Wikipedia. They define family as: “In human context, a family is a group of people affiliated by consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence. In most societies it is the principal institution of the socialization of children…”

In our profession, we have had to make a mind shift from client-based services to the child to family-centered services focused on collaborating with and supporting the family. In this partnership, all people involved acknowledge that each possesses unique skills and knowledge, and they demonstrate trust and respect for one another. Professionals recognize the decision making power of the parent.

Why is family-centered care important? Outcomes! For a child to reach his or her fullest potential, it is essential to have appropriate resources, qualified professionals and family involvement. In family partnerships, families receive support not only from professionals, but from other families with similar circumstances and from the community at large.

Here are the top 10 take-aways for the next time you work with a family:

10) Time. As a professional everything is fast paced. After all time is money — and you serve a lot of people. For a parent, however, time is very slow; they are constantly waiting.

9) Don’t make assumptions or generalizations. Every family is unique with very specific needs. Present all options…don’t be biased in what you say.

8) Don’t label families—or each other.

7) Don’t make inappropriate comments about your profession. Talking negatively about your workplace or another professional reflects poorly on you. The average “wronged” customer will tell 25 others about the bad experience. Don’t reinforce negative experiences.

6) Be confident but not arrogant.

5) Communicate! Communicate! And communicate some more! You cannot overstate anything. Monitor your tone of voice, body language, rate of speech, and be mindful of professional jargon.

4) Listen! Listen! And listen some more! Show the family you are listening (body language). Provide feedback, defer judgment, and don’t try to rescue—empathize.

3) Acknowledge the parent’s efforts and strengths. No matter how small it is — acknowledge something positive.

2) Keep in mind the lack of consistency in our field. Families will see a variety of specialists, and each will provide an opinion about what the parents should do. “This method is better because”…or “You should try this.” The various opinions can be confusing and overwhelming for the family. Be respectful of one another.

1) Respect and patience. Remember parents are people too!

To learn more about family support and family-centered practices, check out the transcript of an “Ask the Expert” online chat about these services, held April 30 by ASHA Special Interest Group  9, Hearing and Hearing Disorders in Childhood.

Tamala Selke Bradham, PhD, CCC-A, is coordinator of ASHA Special Interest Group 9, Hearing and Hearing Disorders in Childhood. She is also associate director of quality, protocols, and risk management in the Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences at Vanderbilt University. She and Joni Alberg, PhD, executive director of BEGINNINGS for Parents of Children Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, Inc., in Raleigh, N.C., answered questions during the SIG 9 online chat.