Strong Interdisciplinary Relationships and Consensus Needed to Help Children with Brain-Based Disorder and Effectively Support Parents and Teachers
Parents who have a child with a brain-based disorder struggle to find help. Teachers struggle to keep up with the numbers of children entering the classroom with various diagnoses, and are often unsure of how to best accommodate and support the child. Whether the child has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, Anxiety Disorder or Learning Disability being a parent and teacher has become a lot more complex in the modern world.
Parents must parent, but also become “case manager” for their child, arranging appointments with specialists, keeping up with medication schedules and attempting to follow the litany of recommendations provided by various professionals. There is the flip side as well. Often there are no services available, no specialists and no recommendations to follow. Parents can be left high and dry to figure out the mystery of their child on their own.
Teachers must teach to meet specific standards of education, but also follow behavioral plans, specific classroom recommendations for accommodation, individualized education plans (IEP’s), classroom traffic as students are pulled for various support and related services throughout the school day, as well as keeping on top of how best to meet the individual student’s needs in the context of the larger classroom environment. All of this comes with the territory of being a parent and teacher. There is nothing simple and easy about managing any of it, and certainly it is not easy on the child.
As someone who helps children with brain-based disorders I admit we specialists can make it confusing for all parties when we give mixed messages about possible diagnoses and what is to be done for the child. Take a child to five different specialists and you will more than likely leave with five different diagnoses and a mixed bag of recommendations. Recommendations ranging from doing nothing, waiting for the child to mature, medications, therapies and software for brain building. Of course, as professionals we have our domains of concern, frames of reference and legitimate tools so we fit the child into the diagnostic categories and intervention scheme we are familiar and comfortable with. But in essence we have chopped the child into various parts and by doing so have inadvertently neglected to address the whole child.
There are a lot of professionals, agencies and organizations out there doing a lot of great things. We need to get out of working in silos, and have more open discussion about how best to address the growing population of children with brain-based disorder. Meaningful exchange between disciplines is needed to address the needs of the whole child, and to make the job of parent and teacher less challenging. Together with more professional sharing and consensus I believe we can be an effective force in bringing comprehensive help to our children. Let’s work together to build a new model of interdisciplinary action and let’s start now.
Julia Grover-Barrey OTR/L, CHT is an Occupational Therapist and Founder of In-Tuned™ www.in-tunedchild.com Julia graduated from Dalhousie University School of Occupational Therapy in Halifax, NS and began her training as an occupational therapist in Moncton, NB. She is offering workshops on how to help the child with brain-based disorder open to all professionals and parents.