Tom Hess is the parent of an active, funny, free-spirited child with autism and his witty and charming older sister. He and his wife are very active in autism projects and programs in Ohio and around the country. Tom has a wealth of business development, management, counseling and leadership experience. He is also Chair of the Family Advisory Committee for the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network.
There are many methods you can use to ensure that all involved professionals are included in a collaboration meeting. In my son’s case we offered multiple options for professionals to provide input to our “team meetings”. Being flexible with the form of communication has been very important for us. We have had professionals provide written reports via email that we subsequently share in our meetings. We have allowed professionals to call in to a meeting if they are unable to attend in person. We have utilized video conferencing, Skype and “face time” to allow professionals to interact with our team whenever available. Ultimately it is important to understand that a collaboration meeting might take many forms and it is useful to remain flexible regarding how the information is shared. Additionally we have created a “Google group” designed to provide a secure space for the entire team to communicate and access data regarding our son’s progress so that they can access that when they have time to. Below are two options for creating an online group that we have tried with success:
I recommend starting an informal/test group of friends to practice using the various tools and options of the prospective group prior to creating the professional group. This way you will be able to coordinate the group effectively when it counts the most. Creation of these online groups allows for all the professionals on the team to communicate at their convenience and is available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. These groups can allow professionals to post comments, documents, research and ask question of others on the team. You can even post a schedule on these groups that will allow access to whomever you choose. Our groups have included participants such as our developmental pediatrician, occupational therapist, speech therapist, learning aide, teachers, intervention specialist, and various service providers. In fact, we can add or remove participants based on our needs and our son’s needs at that time. This can be an excellent way to maintain communication between face to face meetings.
It is important to identify which meetings you want specific professionals to attend. The key group of participants for, say, an IEP meeting would likely be a different group than invited to a medication review meeting. Open and ongoing communication with each professional about the purpose, content, and desired outcome of meetings will go a long way to ensure good attendance to all meetings. On many occasions, our professionals have provided written reports in response to our communication if they were unable to attend in person. It is important to remember that, just like us, our professional team members also have very busy schedules. Any information, direction or specific needs that can be communicated ahead of time will go a long way in ensuring good use of everyone’s time during meetings or clinical appointments.
Finally, if you want to know how to get these professionals together, ASK THEM! We have found that professionals are very willing to provide what they think is the best method of maintaining communication and providing information. With the techniques described here, you should be able to pull this all together. I hope this information is helpful!
You can learn more about the Autism Treatment Networks here.