News and Notes from The Johnson Center

Collaborative Care: My clinicians, my child, and me

JCCHD | Fri, March 22, 2013 | [Autism Treatment][Healthcare]

Clasping hands

For parents and professionals, collaborative care offers many great advantages. More often than not, parents are left feeling helpless and uninformed when it comes to treating their child. While medical professionals are deemed the experts in creating appropriate treatment, these days many are recognizing the importance of incorporating parental report and involvement in developing and implementing treatment plans—ideally everyone works together to provide children with appropriate care and support.

Specifically, parents of children who suffer from a chronic illness or disability often adopt a new and unexpected caregiving role, as they become experts in their child’s symptoms and treatment plans—many are now being asked to provide interventions and be responsible for providing care in the natural home environment. In these circumstances, it’s beneficial to work with a clinical team who understands and is empathic to the challenges of these new roles. Parents may become overwhelmed by the new responsibilities, and give up altogether. This can delay or hinder treatment. Having a practitioner who is aware of the needs of the child but also empathic to the stress on the parent is helpful, and increases the likelihood that parents will be successful. Practitioners can help by offering frequent check-in appointments or recommending follow-up appointments to help address any questions or concerns. 

For clinicians, it’s important to build trust and positive relationships with family members. This helps facilitate honest communication, which is vital when creating a successful treatment plan. Parents sometimes feel judged when providing valuable information that may affect their child’s treatment. For example, many parents will feel uncomfortable accurately reporting what a child eats. They may offer minimal information, and adjust the frequency or amount of “junk food.” Some even feel guilty or blamed for their child’s health. These feelings can deter families from building positive relationships with clinicians and scheduling future appointments. However, if parents feel a partnership with their clinician, they are more willing to disclose information. Clinicians must take the extra step to provide the family support that can make the difference.

Parents can learn to collect important information the clinical team needs, and practitioners can and do appreciate the importance of parental involvement and learn to use their knowledge of their child as a significant factor in the child’s treatment plan. By working together, clinicians and parents build a strong intervention system and can increase a child’s overall development and wellbeing.