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 a deep understanding of your loved ones’ needs, strengths and hopes, and that it is important to trust your instincts.
Being organised can help you 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.
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.
- What do you want to achieve from the meeting?
- Is anyone going with you?
- Does everyone know where they need to be and when?
- Collect together the key documents for reference.
- Have you got a notebook and a few pens that work?
- Check out your transport and travel arrangements to minimise setbacks.
- Make sure you know exactly where you are going and how to get there.
- Have you organised any care for other children or people you care for?
Tip: If the meeting is located somewhere new, looking up 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.
Ask people if they would mind writing down their name and role for you, so you have an accurate record of who was there without worrying about remembering this or spelling their name correctly.
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.
At the end of the meeting, check if you have answers to the key questions you had before the meeting. Agree with those in the meeting on a list of key points and actions to make sure that things happen in the way that you expected.
Try to make a note of who said they would do what and by when. It is likely that you will be sent a summary afterwards, ask about this but make your own notes if possible too. Ask for 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.
After the meeting
Once the meeting is over, try to make notes while the event is still fresh in your mind.
Have a section in a notebook called “waiting for” and have one page for each month. Add any actions from meetings to this (e.g. Dr G will refer to “x” department and we should hear by July). Also write down if you have emailed someone and are waiting for a response from them. We often have “email Dr G” on our to do list and then we cross it off and sometimes forget about the response.
Get into the habit of checking your “waiting for” section each month so you can chase up referrals or responses if you haven’t heard from people.
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