January 5, 2011

Preparing to be left behind

Of all the things we prepare ourselves for (ear infections; technology failure; further hearing loss), the one thing that can suddenly surprise a family is when a member of the support team leaves. It can take a long time to build these relationships and trust professionals, for both the parents and children. Once that trust is in place, it's hard to imagine not relying on the team-- harder still to convince yourself that the same level of confidence can exist with someone else.

Over the last nine years, we've had people come and go from Hadley's team due to job change, relocation, medical leave, sabbatical and retirement. In most cases, we've had plenty of advance notice to make our plans and have transitioned pretty seamlessly. We've been fortunate to expand the team to include some really great professionals who have only improved the level of service to Hadley. Here's what has worked for us:

1. We have always worked with professionals who focus on pediatrics within a larger practice that has a commitment to pediatrics. When people have left for other jobs, the practice has hired new professionals with a similar level of knowledge about serving children.

2. We always ask the question, "If we can't see you, who do you recommend in your absence?". A regular audiologist or ENT isn't always available for last minute appointments, so it's always good to have a relationship with someone else in the office. When a leave has been announced, we've always had a fall back person already in place.

3. All good therapies should come to an end. As much as we loved the regular weekly contact with Hadley's cert AVT, we knew the goal was to complete regular sessions by the time Hadley entered kindergarten. Lea and Jim's sabbatical year to improve AVT services in Australia was the perfect push out of the nest for us, cushioned by monthly sessions with their mentee, Carrie.

4. Change is good! As a toddler, Hadley had developed a few behaviors in reaction to some routine examinations. Having someone new took her mind off her fears and helped her overcome her concerns over some of the more uncomfortable procedures.

5. If you aren't feeling comfortable with a new person, start asking around. It's not always worth going to the closest office if you don't trust the professionals there. Sometimes it's better to drive the extra miles to someone you respect rather than stick with someone you endure.

6. Speak up! We're ingrained to not ask personal questions, but sometimes you have to be direct in order to make proactive decisions. How long will the maternity leave be? Is the person returning to a full or reduced schedule? Hopefully, you've developed a good relationship with this person and can ask without being pushy or intrusive...but ask, regardless.

As parents, we're acutely aware of how hard it is to find professionals who are right for our children and circumstances. Our kids just want to feel comfortable at all these office visits, and the personality that works best for them may be different than what works for us. While Hadley agrees with our choices so far, I'm becoming more aware that she feels safer and more confident with some professionals more than others. These are all factors that will become even more important the next time we're jostled out of our happy support team and forced to reassess those upon whom we all rely.

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