As both a parent of a child effected by ASD and a consultant myself, this topic is one I’ve thought about for almost 20 years. For the sake of this blog conversation, I’ve had many consultants since my son’s diagnosis 19 years ago. Now after 10 years as a consultant myself, I can say I am now in the reverse role with many families. When I became a consultant, I decided I wanted to learn from all the wonderful professionals who have come into my life either as my own consultant or through other channels.
Trust is the key ingredient to the parent / consultant relationship. One can have all the other ingredients: an eager to learn parent, an experienced consultant, a willingness to learn and a willingness to teach, a undying love for our child and a commitment to the remediation of our client but trust must be the underlying foundation and that trust runs both ways, being the responsibility of both the consultant and the families they see.
The work begins before we ever meet. I once had a friend who was runner up Miss Texas. She would always say “Katherine, you only have one time to make a good first impression”. How true in all of life!
How do we build trust from the onset?
For the consultant:
- providing current contact information that is checked regularly
- responding promptly to inquiries for services, even if our caseload is full
- explaining thoroughly the services provided
- willingly and enthusiastically answering questions about what we provide
- listening closely to parents and asking follow up questions
- arriving promptly to all appointments and respecting the families' time
- a commitment to confidentiality and privacy for our families before they are officially working with us (and of course, while they are)
From the parents, a reflection of what builds trust with the consultant:
- responding promptly to follow up questions from the professional
- explaining our needs for services, as painful as that can be
- willingly and enthusiastically answering questions about our sweet children
- listening closely to the consultant and asking follow up questions
- arriving promptly for appointments and respecting the consultants schedule
- commitment to respecting the privacy of the consultant right from the beginning
Of course, life happens! An email goes to spam, an appointment gets scheduled into the wrong week, new construction pops up and we are late to a meeting. However, laying this foundation of reliable trust in the first months of the relationship is key.
Another key is a parent being able to have faith that he or she will not be judged by the consultant… evaluation without judgment. I’ll discuss that in a future blog.