|First, last and always, operate with empathy (this was
mentioned by dozens of respondents); practice 'walking in the shoes' of the
family or the individual; get to know what their day-to-day reality is like.
|Please do not assume that difficult behaviours - especially
in children - are a result of emotional disturbance, abuse, or neglect
without helping the family rule out any medical, neurological, or
|Smash the belief that the presence of a child with a
disability wreaks havoc in a family, leading to depression, marital breakup,
etc. More than anything I would want you to understand that it is not the
child but the society that causes families to break apart. Please take the
blame away from the kids.
|Recognize that having disabilities in one's family does not
mean that there is something wrong with the family or that it is broken and
|Be prepared to address the express interests of the family,
and at the same time be very clear about what you can and cannot do - about
your role and the limits of your craft.
|Although families might know a great deal about their own
children, don't assume that they know a great deal about the 'ins and outs'
of the social service system. Don't wait for them to ask 'the right
question' about what's available - tell them.
|One of the most important things that social workers can do
is to be absolutely on top of support services, programs, advocacy groups,
etc., and share this knowledge very freely.
|Ask parents what they have been told and understand about
their child's condition - an inaccurate prognosis can have a devastating
effect on a parent-child relationship, and can be emotionally overwhelming.
|Take parent concerns seriously, and don't rush to judgment
in assuming that the parent is 'hyper-vigilant' or over-concerned.
|Speak to the gifts.
|Give the families hope.
|Recognize the 'strains' that might be present between 1)
why you came into the field of social work in the first place, 2) how social
work training defines and shapes our practice, 3) how the organizations we
work for define and shape our practice, and 4) what parents and consumers
expect in the social work role.
|Stay actively involved with consumers and families; take
the time to understand the family's needs; make yourself available in 'off'
hours (most family crises don't happen between 9 and 5 on weekdays).
|Be willing to listen to alternatives, brainstorm to find
solutions, know the difference between policy and law and how to be flexible
with policy. Don't be too apprehensive about applying for waivers or
|Understand that families have developed a great deal of
expertise about the medical issues facing their children - treat the
families like the skilled allies they have learned to be. Let them be your
|Take the time to learn something about the specific
disabilities of the individuals and families you're serving. Do some outside
reading. Use the Internet.
|Please don't judge the family you're working with,
especially if the family includes a child with a disability. Realize how
biased judgment can be. Judgment is the toughest thing a social worker can
do to a family. Judgment is very intrusive and can be unfair.
|Look at all children and adults with disabilities and their
families as individuals. It is very easy to talk about kids or families
'like these', but most of us don't fit into any mold. We all have different
strengths and needs, even if we look alike 'on paper'.
|Be compassionate, but don't pity us. We need support,
encouragement and understanding. We do not need sympathy, condescension, or
|Get to really know some families and individuals with
|See the family as a whole more often.
|Recognize what a huge responsibility you have.