Written by Julie Higginbotham, Senior Case Coordinator, Mecklenburg County CDSA
Welcome back to the Table Talk Wednesday events! We have started into our second year of providing opportunities to collaborate more among early intervention providers here in Mecklenburg County, NC, and this one was one of the best yet! Not only did we have a nice big group with lots of familiar faces, we had new faces from both the CDSA and provider network that came to discuss this month’s topic – what happens when Service Coordinators come out to visit with the family and provider to see how things are going? As usual, we had a provider-CDSA team to help facilitate the conversation. AnneLouise O’Brien, Sr. Case Coordinator with the CDSA, helped us get started by going around the table to share our names/titles with the group so we can get a better idea of each others’ perspectives. Audrey Pearlman, CBRS provider with Early Bird Developmental Services, then opened up the floor by talking about how providers work on building a rapport with families and can have a certain flow to their ongoing visits. She then moved it a step further and asked about how that dynamic can shift some when Service Coordinators join the group to check in and see how things are going. Naturally, folks shared that the dynamic does change depending on the provider-family-SC combination and how involved everyone is in the conversation. Throughout the event, there were some themes that the group kept revisiting that were really impactful. Here are some standout buzzwords from the conversation:
These were all so important and, when taken together, really describe how we all need to be working together to support not only children and families, but also each other. Let’s take a look at how these were discussed.
- Relationships, Relationships, Relationships! One attendee said that the word “relationships” kept flashing in her mind as folks talked about their thoughts. This has been such a strong theme in all of our events and blogs because it is just so important. We are often talking about our relationships with families, though, and this was a nice chance to talk about how we’re building relationships with each other as professionals. Not only does this open up so much more communication to support the family, it also allows us to give and receive feedback about how things are going related to using evidence-based practices and meeting individual family needs – it is much easier to speak freely and constructively when we already have a sense of trust and understanding with each other, and those moments can really enhance how we carry over our work with other families as well. This includes positive feedback about the wonderful things we see every day during visits.
- What is the purpose of having the Service Coordinator there during regular visits? This was a very interesting topic that several folks mentioned. Service Coordinators meet with families individually to do the things that Service Coordinators do, such as making sure that families are getting the information that they need through services and resources, addressing new concerns that may have come up, assisting with transition, the list goes on and on. Locally, though, we also like to have SCs meet periodically with team members during regular visits so they can be kept up to speed and see how things are going. From the providers’ standpoint, though, it could potentially feel like they are the ones being “monitored,” and many never really got the whole story behind those visits. The group talked about the context of a Service Coordinator’s “monitoring” – the purpose is to monitor the progress with IFSP outcomes and how the family’s priorities and concerns are being addressed, not to make sure that the providers are doing their jobs well. Because we don’t want to interrupt the flow of a coaching conversation, if there are specific things the SC needs to do outside of the visit, it could be a good opportunity for the SC to go a little early or stay a little later so everything that needs to get done is addressed appropriately. Several providers shared that their relationships (see how that keeps coming up?) with SCs have gotten more comfortable since having a better idea of why they’re coming out, and it has opened up more doors for communication and more teaming opportunities. Speaking of which….|
- Teaming and Communication go hand-in-hand. Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like not everyone was on the same page, or folks just weren’t talking to each other? If you noticed it, it’s pretty likely that the family did, too. Everyone communicates in different ways – some folks email, others call, others text, but we all need to incorporate some face-to-face time in there, too. As SCs, we need to be coordinating communication within teams on the front end so we can get that started off on the right foot. Providers can reach out to SCs anytime they have information to share or if there’s a new concern, and providers can certainly talk with each other to stay on the same page. One person noted, though, that we need to be really careful about talking after visits in the family’s driveway – parents are part of the team, too, and we don’t want to give the impression that we’re talking about them or without them.
- Early Intervention has been evolving in so many different ways. This was another thing that came up in a variety of different ways. Locally, we’ve been focusing really closely on how we are providing services to children and families, and the last couple of years have taken quite a turn in the right direction. When we started, though, we all had an idea of where we were going with it, but we were all a little confused about how to execute it. One person talked about how her visits look different now that she has adopted more evidence-based practices and coaching interactions with families. It seemed to add a layer of disconnection to her visits when she was taking in toy bags and sitting to do “therapy” with children…and she even noted that, as a mother, she never sat on the floor with a plastic cat, asking her child to “meow!” Now that visits are more parent-led and involve more conversation about the family’s priorities, the SCs are more easily integrated into that time when they’re present as well, and it’s easier for the SC to be more engaged in the conversation. This is also a great time for the family to be sharing their own celebrations and accomplishments, which is always a wonderful thing to see.
I have to say that this event felt very different from the others that we’ve had so far – now that folks are getting to know each other and are putting more faces with names, you can tell that those professional relationships are really taking off! If you haven’t come out for one of these events yet, you really should look for a chance to fit it into your schedule. There’s something about being able to share our experiences and learn from one another outside of our direct work with families that can make such a difference in how we all work together as a team. We even had ice cream as our dessert – we’re really upping the ante now! 🙂 The bottom line is that we have something really good going on here that is building some nice positive momentum, and we really want you to be a part of it! Join us next month when we’re talking about To iPad or Not to iPad…That is the Question and see what we see.