For the inaugural post of the 2014-2015 Illinois LEND blog, I thought maybe we should discuss a Ben Stiller comedy from 2000…Just kidding. What the title actually references is the prevailing theme from our year’s first didactic session. All the trainees had the opportunity to engage with a panel of parents and grandparents of persons with disabilities. We heard first-hand accounts of navigating the health-care system to receive a proper diagnosis and action plan. We were regaled with inspirational tales of perseverance and dedication, and frustrated at the lack of common decency in communication and healthcare access.
Our topic of discussion and some of the primary questions asked to the panelists focused on the topic of “Meeting the Parents”. This phrase, as we came to understand, means that regardless of the field of expertise we may come from, it is important to communicate openly in a respectful manner. This includes both speaking and listening. It means being cognizant of differences in social or cultural backgrounds, and not presenting oneself with an air of self-importance. We were reminded that a parent’s lofty expectations for their child are not born out of denial or ignorance. As a parent, they simply want to best, most fulfilled life for their child. And as current or aspiring health professionals, it is imperative to be open to dialogue about these expectations and how they may be met or adjusted accordingly. It was refreshing to hear that parents are willing to accept an answer of “I don’t know” as long as that’s followed with, “but I’m willing to do my best to help find an answer.”
I think this session brought out a lot of emotions both in the panel and the audience. It reminded us that sometimes simple human decency is missing in the fast-paced, bureaucratic world of health care. It instilled in me and hopefully my colleagues that these families and children are not another folder on the caseload stack or a data point in a regression analysis. They are real people seeking real guidance.