By Louise Johnson
Families with children who have special needs know little about rest and relaxation. They continually have to manage time around meeting the needs of their child, which can include dealing with the school system and navigating IEPs, or dealing with medical professionals in an attempt to diagnose and/or treat their child’s condition and needs. It is important that professionals working with these families stay mindful and empathetic to what the needs are, so they may appropriately offer assistance and support.
One example of support is linking families to resources in the community and taking the extra step to contact these resources to see if they are a good fit. Many parents juggle employment responsibilities in addition to responsibilities at home and are not able to make the phone calls to investigate what specific programs provide and what populations they serve.
Another way that professionals can ease some of the stress families experience is by educating them about what long term options are available and what state resources may benefit them. Some of these options include assisting with navigating Medicaid Waiver Services, accessing the HIPP Program, and applying for Medicaid and SSI Benefits. Providers can also review with families the process for accessing medical supplies via Durable Medical Equipment benefits available through insurance carriers. Additionally, linking families to medical specialists offers more options for taking care of the needs of their child.
Professionals can provide support by simply being an outlet to whom parents can vent. Listening empathetically and being genuine goes a long way. It lets the parent know that they have a sounding board and someone who understands and is there when needed. At times that release of stress and anxiety through being able to verbalize helps a great deal. The combination of listening and offering of resources and services that may benefit the special needs child provides a level of support that can help decrease stress.
The ultimate goal, and one of the greatest achievements for a professional, is to empower parents with the tools and knowledge they need to help their child reach his/her highest potential. The goal is not to do everything for parents or to coddle them, rather to support them, link them to resources, and guide them about how to access and use beneficial services and supports. The options listed here are just a few ways that professionals can do that.
Louise Johnson is the owner of Steps for Hope and provides case management services and service facilitation services to consumers receiving Medicaid Waiver Services in Virginia. If you would like further information she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org