David Brown Listen to David Brown’s advice on the benefits of parent/professional collaboration on self-determination skills.


In terms of helping a child develop good self-determination skills, what do you see as the real benefits of a parent/professional collaboration around self-determination?

I think that’s really about the parent role and the professional role, versus each other, and collaboratively. And it’s always…it’s a bit like dancing, about finding the right partner, which is important. And in my experience, many parents have come across professional collaborators who are not really terribly collaborative, who tend to come in either with very stereotyped views or with a very directive approach, which may suit some parents, but doesn’t suit all, and isn’t the most open-ended and useful in my experience.

So I think what you’re looking for is that in-depth, individualized insight that the parent has had to develop of necessity by living with that child from birth, and then the professional’s shallowness of experience with the individual but the breadth of their experience across the field and finding ways to bring those two things together. And really, that depends on the professional in the duo being open to and valuing and respecting the depth of the parent’s knowledge of their own child. And we pay a lot of lip service these days to the idea that the parent is the greatest expert in their child. Sometimes I think that’s dumped on parents as a big burden. It’s almost a way that some professionals get out of working very hard by saying, “Well, you’re the biggest expert on your child.” And then you walk out the door, and you’ve just left them feeling maybe even more inadequate.

But there’s a way of very respectfully saying, “I need your knowledge of your child. I bring a lot of expertise that could be very relevant, and I’ll try and share it with you, but we’ll have to tweak it and work on it to make it relevant for this individual. And maybe I can help you realize just how much you know because there may be things of enormous value that you’ve never realized are of that kind of value. And we can go along that avenue.” And that’s always the best way, I think, to build those collaborations. It’s something I’ve been doing for 33 years now, and I love helping parents stand back and really look at the breadth and depth of their knowledge of their own child because it’s not something that many professional agencies take on board and deal with. To me, it’s the starting point.