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Children's Medical Services - Special services for children with special needs
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Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 5, Lesson 2

Communicating with Families

As a review and extension of your learning from Modules 2 and 3, this section will emphasize the critical importance of communication with families in establishing relationships. In order to collaborate, we need to understand each other and articulate our goals. Communication plays a vital role in this. When we use critical communication skills, we convey concern and an attempt to understand the other person. It is a building block of collaborating and trust-building. Some important components of communication for collaboration include the following. (Banks, Santos, & Roof, 2003; Briggs, 1997; Dunst, 2002; Jordan, 2001; Rush, Sheldon, & Hanft, 2003)

  • Accepting the other person and his/her perspectives and differences. Your own frame of reference may interfere with your understanding of someone else's communication message.
  • Listening is the key to a positive conversation - listening effectively to truly hear the message and being able to ask clarifying questions ("how", "what", "tell me about", etc.) in a tone of acceptance that allows a full range of responses. Listening is an active endeavor. Gather additional information to clarify what the issue is. ("What other things are bothering you?"; "I'm not sure I understand. Can you explain it again?"; "Tell me what was said and then tell me what you believe.")
    • Active listening also includes hearing the unspoken messages someone may be transmitting. Often, we are so intent on making sure others understand us that we throw up barriers to hearing what they are saying. This interferes with good collaboration.
  • Restating and allowing the other person to confirm or correct our perceptions. Validate the other person's perceptions. ("I understand your concern...", "I heard you say...")
  • Providing honest but tactful interchanges.
  • Staying focused on the goal of the collaboration. Focus on and communicate the positive as often as possible. Avoid divisiveness and a "blaming" attitude. Use 'we', 'us', and 'our' words versus 'you', 'I', 'yours', and 'mine' words.
  • Giving concrete examples such as, "What I've observed is..." or "I've noticed that when...then this occurs."

Read page 12 of the Resource Bank document, Our Journey with Families: Service Delivery in Natural Environments in Rural Areas

Reflect on how the service provider uses good communication and listening skills in doing joint problem-solving with Isabel.

Why Is Good Communication Important?

When we communicate with families, what are we trying to find out? Hopefully, we are attempting to understand what their concerns, priorities and issues are and to jointly develop goals and outcomes that are realistic for their child. Why is it important to do this? Good communication with families:

  • leads to the establishment of a positive relationship based on trust and confidence.
  • allows you to get to know families and lets them get to know you.
  • gathers critical information the family wants you to know about their child.
  • gives them a chance to share their wants, needs, concerns, and fears.
  • helps you determine motivation and expectations - yours and theirs.
  • clarifies cultural and family values that are important to the family.

Obstacles to Good Communication

What are some obstacles to communication? Can you see where the factors listed below could be barriers to communication and establishing collaborative relationships?

  1. Ego
  2. Differences in degree of knowledge
  3. Differing purposes for communicating
  4. The use of jargon and technical language
  5. One-way communication
  6. Emotional distance
  7. Assuming you know what the other person is going to say, or is feeling
  8. Feeling defensive
  9. Letting your mind wander
  10. Being in a hurry. The pressure of time.

 

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