Written by Julie Higginbotham, Senior Case Coordinator, Mecklenburg County CDSA
“Movement in a new direction helps find new cheese.”
– Spencer Johnson, Who Moved My Cheese
As professionals, we know that there is constant motion in improving the field of early intervention. A shift starts as a thought, moves into research, lines up with the law, and then comes on down to us, the folks who are actually in the field and doing the work. Sometimes those shifts are cut and dry, like changing a form. Other times, though, the shifts involve a little more energy, like when there are philosophical changes that we have to think about and that alter the way our work looks in the moment with families. Everyone has to start somewhere, but has anyone seen the starting line?
Spencer Johnson’s book, Who Moved My Cheese?, talks about picturing what we want to see happening – in our case, it’s what we want early intervention to look like. For those of us who are in a position of helping folks move in the right direction, there are some key points we’ve considered for presenting new information and continuing to provide support.
- Wrap your brain around it. Anytime there is something new happening in your work, you need to be able to understand it before you can do it. Practice using the right words, because the more you say it the “new way,” the more you’ll think about it in the right context. For example, rather than saying that we’re in a home to do therapy with a child, we are there for an intervention session and to interact with the parents, coaching them to help make their routines more successful. When someone says it the “old way,” be constructive and kind in the way you offer corrections so no one feels the need to shut down and not talk about it at all.
- Be flexible and anticipate questions. We know that each family is different, so it’s to be expected that it’s not always going to look exactly the same for each family, either. When there are new concepts to consider in the field, there are always the “But what about this?” scenarios. Many can be anticipated on the front end, but some are too specific to family situations that need to be discussed separately. Addressing these outright in the beginning can help those you are supporting to see that you’re really thinking through the process and know that some things just aren’t going to fit neatly into the mold a lot of the time.
- Think about who needs the information. It is easier for us to support families more effectively when we have as much information as we can get about a routine, and managing changes in the workplace is no different. Being transparent about the fact that changes are coming, why they are happening, and where they will take us allows those of us on the front lines to be more confident as we try new things. If we get information but don’t share it with others, the transition will not be as smooth because we haven’t provided enough support for the transitions to happen. This also opens the door to getting constructive feedback that can be considered before final processes are put into play.
- Be sure you have a forum to check in with others and discuss successes and failures. To support each other in an ever-changing field, we need to have a place to talk about where we are in the process and get support from those around us. Frame it up for your group by saying that it is meant to be positive, constructive, professional, and functional. We want to address challenges appropriately and respectfully without falling into a ranting session that doesn’t provide insight to those in your group. People need to feel safe in sharing things that went well and not-so-well in order to make an impactful shift in the right direction.
Reach out to those around you who can provide you with the encouragement and information you need to help prepare others for the “moving cheese,” both within your agencies and within the early intervention branch. If you are part of the Mecklenburg County CDSA provider network and are interested in being mentored, or if you are willing to mentor another provider, check out our Mentoring page to see how you can become more involved and to access other self-assessment tools. We are all part of one big team with the same goal in mind, which is to provide families with quality supports to help make them successes in their own lives!
Are there things that you have done to help “move the cheese” along in early intervention? Share them with us below!!