Dealing with meetings
When attending meetings, it is important to remember families know and love their child best. As a parent, you have known your loved one since birth, and hold much more information than any professional report could possibly capture. This means you have a deep understanding of your loved ones’ needs, strengths and hopes, and that it is important to trust your instincts.
We have already stressed the importance of being organised to help manage everything routinely and to make sure you are ready with all the information you need when meeting with others involved (e.g. Education, Health or Care professionals). Meetings can be stressful, especially if you are taking your son or daughter with you. Just the thought of trying to get them there may fill you with anxiety, with likelihood of them cooperating ranging from very unlikely to impossible.
If there are likely to be any difficulties, let the organiser know well before the meeting. It is important that you can all work together to try and make the adjustments that your loved one might need – and that includes what you might need as their carer. If they have not met you before, it is helpful to send the organisers a communication aid (e.g. ‘About Me’ summary or Communication/Hospital Passport) to help start the conversation about your loved one’s needs.
Ahead of any planned health intervention at hospital, always send the Hospital Passport to the relevant liaison staff so they can prepare accordingly.
Depending upon your loved one’s diagnosis and your local NHS arrangements send it to the Hospital learning disability liaison team, the autism liaison service (if available), designated lead, care team or relevant department.
Visiting the Doctor
My hospital passport
Please note: remember that public sector organisations are obliged to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for people with disabilities (including learning disability and autism) so it is important for them to know about your loved one’s needs.
Whatever the meeting is for, it is a good idea to be prepared before you go.
- Read through any relevant papers and reports beforehand.
- Write down a list of the questions you would like to ask.
- Collect together the key documents, as well as your loved one’s Health and Care Diary for reference.
- Check out your transport and travel arrangements to minimise setbacks.
- Make sure you know exactly where you are going and how to get there.
- Remember that your loved one’s consent may be required if they are aged 16 or over (please see the Glossary).
Tip: If the meeting is located somewhere new, type in the postcode on Google Earth. Looking at the destination on street view can help you to find your way.
At the meeting
In our busy lives, we all have to attend routine meetings for all sorts of things and hopefully the majority of these will not cause you to worry. However, if you are anxious about anything specific, or if it is a significant meeting, it is a good idea to take someone with you for support (e.g. a partner, spouse, relative or friend). Make sure you let the person organising the meeting know who is coming so they are aware.
It is important to try to keep as calm as possible. This may be easier said than done, especially if you are feeling apprehensive. However, trying to stay calm will help you express all the things you want to.
It is also important to try to maintain good working relationships with the other people at the table as far as possible. Try to stay as positive as you can, as this will hopefully encourage others to focus positively and get things done. Having said that, you are the person who knows your loved one’s needs better than anyone else and have every right to put them first in any discussion.
Before the meeting starts, check its expected finishing time so that you can pace yourself accordingly. Make notes during the meeting if you want to and ask the professionals to explain anything you do not understand. Professional meetings can often be littered with acronyms and professional jargon. It is important that these are explained to families. This guide also has a Glossary section (please see here) to help explain some of the more common ones.
At the end of the meeting, agree on a list of key points and actions to make sure that things happen in the way that you expected. It is likely that you will be sent a summary afterwards, ask about this and details of any further tests or meetings to be held.
If things did not go to plan, for example if there was not enough time or you forgot something, remember you can ask for a follow-up call after the meeting.
Education – A guide to making conversations with schools count for all families
SENDIASS: Making Meetings Matter – Some tips for parents and carers
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