As a caregiver, we constantly evaluate the impact that we have on our clients and families on a daily basis. It is a great feeling when you realize that you have changed client’s life and assisted him/her move towards independence. It is an even greater feeling when you receive acknowledgement from a family member that you have helped your client successfully transition back into the community.
Active family engagement is the key factor to having successful transitions not only back in the community but also to generalization of progress in the home setting. If there is little family involvement and we have not utilized the family as a resource in developing the treatment strategies, all we have done is ensure that the client can succeed in a setting that is not their home. The end goal is to transition the client successfully back into the home environment, and the only way to achieve this goal, is to ensure the family is invested in the process and will carry out the strategies that made the client successful in a residential treatment environment. Our program is a tool for the client to learn new skills, but equally important, it serves as a model to families of what strategies and routines that will make their child a successful community member.
I would like to share a recent interaction I had with a parent that is a testimonial to the fact that if we have parents who spend more time invested in our program, visiting our group home and spending time in the classroom; we can go on to inspire these parents to implement our treatment strategies and philosophies in the home environment.
One of my students recently had oral surgery and his mother, Mrs. Norwood, decided to spend a few days in a hotel and visit with her son at the group home to help him recover. After talking with Mrs. Norwood, she expressed that she had an amazing experience, getting to experience the daily routine of her son, much like she would when her son was at home. As we discussed her experience, I realized that getting reports from therapist and staff, MDT meetings, shorts visits when picking up her son and IEP meetings can never paint a picture as accurate as being directly involved in a whole daily routine. Mrs. Norwood stated “I really got to witness the progress my son has made and to see how far along the other clients are in the house, gave me inspiration that my son will one day be there.”
Mrs. Norwood explained that she noticed on previous home visits that her son was waking up, asking for breakfast, then a shower; but after spending time in the group home she realized that her son had adapted to a consistent routine that he actually carried home. This made her realize “that I have to keep up with the routine and the progress if my son is going to be successful at home, because I have seen what it is truly possible. I hope that all parents have the chance to visit, even if it is just one day or one afternoon, as it will give them an idea that consistency is key.”