As a specialist teacher, I have always felt privileged to visit a child in their own home, predominantly when the child is very young and under school age. I think the youngest child I ever saw on an initial visit was only 3 months old and already she had gone through several medical procedures, including heart surgery – all relating to a syndrome she had been diagnosed with the early months.
The little one’s Mum and Dad were very keen to find out what else they could be doing to support their little girl. Both parents were professional people and were continuing to manage their careers as well in between medical appointments and visits from specialists that the family had already begun building in their new support networks.
As a visitor to the home, I am not there to judge the parents for the home they live in, or the food they eat or the way they dress their child. I am there to build a rapport, gain trust, observe the child, make recommendations, informally assess if necessary, answer questions and support the family in the process. I strive to ‘empower’ parents and family, and teach them the importance of advocating for their child’s needs. I might demonstrate how to do something if the need is there and share discussion about concerns, achievements and program plans. I am also there to listen and develop trust amongst the family. Visiting the child in the home is always different to seeing them in other environments such as child care or school or out at the local park. We are all different in our own homes. In order to gather a more complete picture, several environments are valuable.
On meeting a parent on the first home visit, I give them the respect that is deserved. I understand at any moment that if circumstances change and the visit needs to be cut short or re-scheduled, that’s okay. I understand there can be times when the night didn’t go so well, and the entire household is suffering as a result. No-one wants to open the door to a visitor and have someone “all enthused, motivated, positive, delivering ‘the message’ of the effects of a child with a disability when the challenge for the family is surviving the next hour and getting tasks done.
Your home is a special place, a safe place, a personal place. If I can provide support to your child or grandchild in the home where you feel comfortable, the child can feel comfortable too, and will gain immensely from the home visit. Learning opportunities will be added to the stack of many more to come.