As a childcare service provider, you may be able to serve a key role in identifying a potential developmental delay in a child and in supporting the child and his/her family through the evaluation process and any resulting individualized education plans (IEP) that may result. While we all want to do the very best for a child, in the end, the process itself must be started by the child's parent(s) or legal guardian(s). This can at times be a difficult situation for service providers, but our team is here to support you with those important conversations.
To start, we recommend you consider the following when looking to discuss any concerns you might have regarding a child's development. It is important to remember that positive outcomes of these discussions between a child's service provider and parent will help the child, family and caregiver.
1. Set the stage for a successful conversation.
Often, these difficult conversations follow an evaluation or progress report. However, if your schedule does not allow adequate time to hold this conversation, schedule a meeting. Choosing the right time and place for a conversation to share your concerns is very important. And allowing sufficient time with no interruptions is critical. Understand that emotions may be unpredictable. Be ready to listen and offer help through the referral process.
2. Start with parent observations, questions, or concerns.
It’s important to assess where a parent stands in relation to understanding his/her child’s development before sharing your own professional concerns. The parent may already sense a problem and just not have the words to articulate it. Gently probe and ask questions that will allow a parent to share their own observations, questions, or concerns first. Then share your own observations and screening results in a very neutral manner. By doing so, you will open an exchange and may even validate a parent’s hidden concerns and fears.
3. Put yourself in the parent's shoes. Be supportive.
Some of the most memorable conversations that parents of children with special needs report are those that take place at the critical moment a first concern is expressed. An empathetic approach goes much further in establishing trust and understanding than a clinical or professionally-detached one. Your tone and manner should be open and available. Whatever the outcome, in the long run, the parent will remember and appreciate your discussion if it is framed in a caring way.
4. Focus on the need to "rule out" anything serious.
By referring for further evaluation, it opens up the opportunity to “rule out” as well as “rule in” the concern. If concerns are ruled out, parents can rest easy. If concerns are confirmed, then seeking help through evaluation and referral will help to get the child back on a healthy developmental path. No harm can be done by checking out concerns. Things can only get better.
5. Refer parents to other resources. Some parents need to come to this understanding on their own.
It is also a good idea to give the parent something descriptive to read about developmental milestones in the quiet of their homes. Seeing resources in writing, whether through literature or on the Web, allows a parent to make the match with his/her own child’s behaviors and needs. It provides an objective description of common features and allows the parent to come into recognizing developmental concerns at their own pace. Often, when a parent is in denial, reading something that describes their own child’s behaviors closely can be the catalyst for progress. Utilize the free downloads available on our preschool landing page or recommend parents call us at 484-237-5150.
6. Emphasize the importance of early identification and intervention.
One way to look at developmental concerns is that if a child had signs of a serious and persistent physical illness, like asthma, you would want to get it checked out as soon as possible to rule it out. If there really were a problem, it would only make it worse by not doing so. Developmental delays are no different. By not receiving timely interventions for concerns around language, behavior, and social connectedness, the problems will not go away but will worsen over time. And what’s most hopeful is that early intervention works, improving life in the long and short term for both the child and the family. So life will get better once interventions are underway.
7. Be confident that sharing your concerns is always the right thing to do. The hardest part is finding the right words to get started.
Try role-playing what you will say first. Express what you have observed that gives you concern in a caring and supportive way. By doing so, it may lower your own anxiety and give you the confidence to have a heart-to-heart with a positive outcome. Do not be afraid of hurting the relationship with the family. If you present your concerns in a positive and caring way, you will build trust. The bottom line is that the earlier a developmental concern is identified and treated, the better the outcome.
Questions regarding the evaluation process?
Call us at 484-237-5150.