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Will the Real Professional Please Stand?

Advice for doctors, nurses, teachers, therapists, administrators and other professionals meeting with parents of special needs children.

By Pat Linkhorn

The following lists how a "real" professional acts when meeting with parents of children with special needs.

1. They don't make judgments about me based on what other people say.

2. They come to meetings on time.

3. They don't talk about other cases during their meeting with me.

4. They don't reject my ideas.

5. They don't assume my child can't learn.

6. They recognize my child's strengths.

7. When giving me bad news, they do it tactfully and with compassion and in a private (if possible) place.

8. They don't have to take time to read through their files at the meeting to find out who the meeting is about.

9. They don't assume that their way is the only way.

10. They don't try to force issues.

11. They will admit they are wrong, or that they don't have the answer.

12. They don't pretend to have experience or know how to deal with an issue if they don't.

13. They are flexible.

14. They don't try to rush through a meeting.

15. They don't continually glance at their watch.

16. They are honest with me.

17. They are aware of my rights and they let me know what they are.

18. They don't try to impress me with their titles.

19. They don't resent my input.

20. They truly care about children.

It may seem that all professionals would act in this manner, but its one of those sad facts of life that they don't. One of the most professional people I know is my daughter's aide. I have no idea what education she has, but the manner in which she treats me is respectful of myself and Krystal. She is contentious and kind.

Our pediatrician is also a person who treats me with a great deal of respect. He always gives me credit for being able to care for her. He follows up on all the questions I ask him and he will admit to not having all the answers.

Both of these people act professionally. If either of them made a suggestion I would probably do what they suggested, because I don't have all the answers either. They have given me reason to trust them.

Pat Linkhorn is an advocate/trainer/information specialist with the Ohio Coalition for the
Education of Children with Disabilities. She is also an experienced parent and has two girls with special needs - autism and blindness due to prematurity.

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