By Christine Marchant

As a Child Development Facilitator (CDF), we are expected to just magically know what the therapists mean when they are writing the goals. Therapists tend to use words that we have never heard before. You will work with many different styles of therapists. If you don’t understand what the therapists are saying or you don’t understand why they are asking you to do something, just ask them. This will not make you look stupid or incompetent. 

I know SO MANY aides that nod and smile when the therapists tell them what to do. They feel intimidated by the therapists and are scared to show them that they don’t really know what they are being asked to do. I would be working with an aide, either from my own company or from a different company, and I would watch them struggling to follow the instructions. These ladies would be doing things that are SO wrong! Or SO weird and inconsistent. Finally (because I can’t stand it anymore) I would ask them—what are you doing?!?!

The aide will either dismiss me because they believe that the privacy act prevents them from asking for help or they actually think they know what they are doing. The privacy act doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help in understanding what you are expected to do. It prevents you from using names or other ways to identify the specific person. That’s why I refer to all of my clients as “Little Bobby”. I don’t disclose any personal information. I am explaining this because people are confused about what they are allowed to discuss.

If you are not sure, or even if you are sure that you know what the therapists are expecting you to do, talk to them about it. If you repeat to them what you are understanding, they can correct you or explain exactly what they are expecting. This doesn’t make you look weak or incompetent. By asking questions about the goals and how you are expected to teach the child these goals, you build a bond with the therapists and a trust.

The next most important thing to ask is “why”. Why are you doing this? Why do you respond this way? You need to know why you are doing something so you can transfer the information to other areas. If you just do the one or two examples the therapists have given you, you will not be as successful as you can be if you take that information and apply it to other activities and goals.

An example of this is when the OT had me have the child do dinosaur stomps down the hallway. The child quickly became bored with it. If I didn’t know why we were doing this activity, I would have either made him continue or I would have thought “Well it’s not important, let’s drop it”. I had asked the OT “Why are we doing this activity?” The OT said it was important to tense the muscles and release the muscles in a controlled manner as this wakes up his body and activates the brain. I asked the OT if there were any other activities we can do to accomplish the same thing. The OT gave me two other activities to get the same results.

Another really important thing to ask the therapists is “when”. When do I do this activity? This is really important because the time and the order that we do things will really affect the results. These are important questions to ask all therapists. The team must work together and understand that all the areas are equally important. If the CDF doesn’t know or is doing things incorrectly, the job will be frustrating and actually not satisfying. If you are feeling confused or frustrated with the expectations of you, it will affect your efforts and results.

Don’t get too confident either. A little knowledge can make you feel like a pro. This will make you less likely to ask questions and accept the information.

Ask “why”, “when”, “how”. Then always ask the therapists to model what they are expecting you to do. Not all therapists will be happy about it. I’ve had some therapists that are not happy with my questions and will shut me down immediately. They have the “do what I say” style. Other therapists are happy and open to sharing their knowledge and will happily model their expectations. If you are working with the “do what I say” style of therapist, don’t be intimidated or discouraged. Just google EVERY word you don’t understand. Read EVERY article on everything you are asked to do. Then, when you see the therapist, share the stuff you learned. They will either tell you to stop or will suddenly get very happy with you and will correct you or expand on the knowledge.

The more knowledge you have, the more confident you are. Always remember to have fun and be genuine with your feelings. When you are having fun and showing your excitement and modeling having fun—your child will too.