Tips for Family-Centered Practice

​Allow time for professionals and families to share information. Introduce yourself and allow families to introduce themselves and to share their stories. This is an important step in relationship building, and may require audiologists to put aside their professional agendas.

Relationship Building: What To Do

  • Schedule adequate time based on what you know about each individual family's learning style or needs.
  • Schedule at a good time for you. Try to pace yourself for those families who require extra time and energy.
  • Set the stage by allowing families to talk before the professionals do - "I have read the information in the chart about your child. What do you want us to know about him/her?"
  • Ask for clarification if needed ("Help me to understand what you meant when you said..." )
  • Summarize briefly at the end of each appointment and define the next step for families.

What To Avoid

  • Avoid scheduling difficult appointments at the end of a busy day or week. Families may feel that their needs are not being met if they see staff leaving, lights being turned off, etc. before they are ready to leave.
  • Avoid monopolizing the conversation with too much clinical/technical information. Deal with what is important to families in their day to day lives.
  • Team with other professionals as needed (e.g. counselors), but avoid having too many professionals in a room with the family.

More Tips

  • Use culturally appropriate titles or the names of family members when addressing them. Respect the family's ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic status. Take a course on cultural sensitivity to better serve clients.
  • Learn as much as possible from the interpreters. Their training and experience can be invaluable. See:
  • Find ways to involve families in the information gathering process and partner with parents at each appointment. To open a session with families, audiologists might ask, "What questions do you hope to have answered today?" or "Did you have questions or concerns since our last visit?" At the end of the appointment to summarize or check for understanding, audiologists may ask, "Were we successful in answering your questions today?" Get input from families about their goals for future appointments by asking, "What are you still wondering about?" or "What would you like to discuss at our next appointment?" Allowing families to guide their intervention services ensures that their needs and priorities are being addressed and gives them a sense of ownership in the process.
  • Help family members to feel comfortable about participating in the discussion. Encourage families to ask questions as needed. Leave time at the end of the appointment for discussion and clarification.
  • Identify each family's learning style. Ask families: "How do you like to learn new information?" Establish if they are visual, auditory or experiential learners. Matching the family's learning style will allow them to be informed decision makers, and active participants in their child's intervention.
  • Use open-ended statements and descriptive questions to elicit information from families.
    • Tell me more about that.
    • If you had your choice, what would you do?
    • How does this fit into your future plans for your child?
    • What would you like to accomplish in the next six months/year?
    • What concerns do you have for your child?
    • What are your priorities for your child?
    • What do you think is best for him/her?
    • How do you feel about it?
    • What do you need from me right now?

Remember that in a family-centered model, the family is the expert on their child. The audiologists and early interventionists are there to provide information and to guide the family in the direction of their choice.