This entry is a nominee in the 2012 Peer Award “Coaching/Development” category
South East Coaching & Mentoring Network
The South East C & M Network have been instrumental in making a big difference to the parents of children with disabilities.
These parents encounter professionals who use technical terms, theories and policies, rarely co-ordinate and often confound parents. We brought these professionals together, helped a group of parents set up a charity then considered how we could train them as coaches. We then told professionals that coaching skills were to be used as the common unifying approach to learning, understanding and communicating with each other. Parents now deliver training, as experts, and no longer disempowered recipients of the experts.
Parents of disabled children are more confident in defending their rights and the rights of their children. They are able to engage as equals with professionals and as real partners sharing their natural expertise on the needs of their children. They are coordinating communication with other parents who distrust professionals, sharing information about available support, helping parents cope and raise their expectations of the potential of their children. They are also offering support and guidance through the maze of professionals to parents of newly diagnosed children. They are also now acting as brokers and commissioning their own support services.
Health and social care organisational cultures have historical roots in Victorian welfare ideologies and ideas of deficit in resources or capabilities of clients. Technological skills have advanced but less so the power relationship with clients. This undermines the resilience and emotional capacity of these parents and their ability to care for children. Coaching is strengths based approach to working with people, about assisting them to locate inner resources and utilise these in dealing with challenges they face. Coaching, based on respect, listening and understanding is a great organising principle for multi agency cooperation.
From a closer relationship with these parents we understand better the huge challenges they face and the way the system works against them. We begin understanding how frequent sleep deprivation, poor access to universal services like after school activities, ongoing sadness about the suffering of their children effect them and their families. We realise that to truly empathise means to share some of this and it is not so easy to do. We start to better understand the institutional discrimination these families face. It’s easy for professionals to retreat back into the difficulties of insufficient resources and performance targets.
Good ideas spread like viruses. They spread by communication. Teaching people effective coaching and communication skills impacts on self esteem, relationships with professionals, friends and family. Good communication requires an ability to empathise with ones audience and understandings of the difference between ones own subjective reality and that of others. This requires a capacity for self reflection which develops empathy, compassion and humanity. This is what Goldman refers to as EQ and describes as twice as important as IQ in organisational success. Giving clients these skills will benefit them and change the culture of the helping professions
Graham Smith is Area Manager Disabled Children’s Services at Kent county Council