I did a presentation this week. I was asked to speak to a group of early years’ professionals on the topic of “how to approach a parent when there is a possibility that their child may have a developmental delay or a specialized learning need.” I was asked to share my perspective on the matter and I want to share it with all of you.
Can I speak to you for a moment?
It’s not easy to share bad news. If you are a health care professional, an educator or a counsellor, its most likely that at some point in your career, you have approached someone and said, “I am concerned, can I speak with you for a moment?”
Whether it is about a serious illness, extraordinary diagnosis, or a personal loss, having that conversation is difficult for there is a good chance that the information you deliver may be a life altering event for the person to whom you are speaking.
If you have ever been in this position, I am sure you would agree that providing this kind of information is no easy task. In anticipation of the other person’s reaction, your heart rate may speed up, your palms may become moist and the anticipation of the other person’s reaction you may be unsure of exactly how you are going to deliver the news.
Somehow, you do it and the message is transmitted.
I call this, The Moment of Truth.
The moment of truth is a critical turning point for all of the people involved.
Without a doubt, the information will bring on a flood of emotions, both from the giver, and the receiver however, this pivotal moment is integral to the person’s well-being and to the well-being of his or her family.
It represents a starting point for prescribed treatment, modifications to learning, job adaptations or specialized equipment, can be set up to support the person at home, school, work or play.
Information Leads to Inclusion
One of the barriers to approaching the moment of truth is that people are reluctant to attach a label to their child or loved one. They fear that the label can be a limiting factor and that it may be a cause for discrimination or segregation. A diagnosis of Autism, Epilepsy, Language Processing Disorder, or Dyslexia, while all serious matters, are nowhere near as damaging as the labels of idiot, moron, and retard, words that unfortunately are still widely used.
I believe that the absence of a diagnosis, results in a lack of understanding and it is this kind of ignorance that is discriminatory and generates non-inclusive outcomes.
So how do you start the conversation?
Your Personal Values
The approach depends upon your personal values your own fears as well as in your relationship with shame and vulnerability. Ask yourself the following questions…
- What is keeping me from starting the discussion?
- What are my top 3 personal values?
- What feelings or thoughts am I experiencing?
- What internal messages arise as I try to begin the conversation?
- What act of self-protection do I use?
- What do I have to do to initiate the dialogue?
- How do I start the conversation; What do I say?
It takes a lot of courage to have a difficult conversation. Courage is defined as, “strength in the face of pain or grief”. Courage is the key to moving forward.
I emphasize that “It is our responsibility to have those difficult conversations, so that we can create an environment of positivity and inclusion, that provides all people with an opportunity to belong, participate and embrace their individuality”
Think about the consequences if you don’t have the conversation.