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By Pat Linkhorn

Take a Tip from Your Kids.. Ask Until You Get the Right Answer.

Kids have the right attitude. If they ask Mom for permission to do something and she says no, they go directly to Dad and ask the same question. Sometimes, it works and they get a yes from Dad. Sometimes not. But they know what they want to hear and the no answers simply aren't acceptable, so they keep on asking.

Parents who have children with developmental delays or disabilities have questions. Lots and lots of questions. Many times, when a question arises, it's not really a question. It's a confirmation question. In other words, the person knows what they want to do. They simply want someone to confirm that what they want is valid or reasonable.

The truly stubborn parent will ask this question of every professional they come in contact with until they get the assurance they're seeking. The new or timid parent will accept the negative answer and go no further. The point here is not to say that professionals don't have the right answers. They do have the answers to what they think you have asked. They don't always have the answer that you actually want to know though.

Also, every person is at a different space and time in the disability movement. The director of the County Board Program might give you a different answer than the teacher who teaches in an inclusive setting, or the speech pathologist who teaches in more than one program. None of them will give you wrong answers. But, they will answer from their perspective. If you are not satisfied with the answer you get, if it leaves you feeling somewhat defensive, or if you feel they really didn't understand the question, don't stop asking. Ask the next parent or professional you encounter.

Parents are always at differing points in the disability movement, so they too, might give you different answers to the same question. You have the option of asking this question however many times you want though. You may have 25 different answers and when you ask the 26th person, you may finally get the answer you've been seeking. When you get that answer, you'll know it. Suddenly, what you should do will seem clear and there will be no more doubt as to the course that you should take. The question will have turned into a fact that requires action.

An example of this type of question: A parent asks, "I have a five with old with a specific disability. My 2 year old is displaying many of the same symptoms. My five year old got a lot more services once he had his diagnosis. Should I get a diagnosis on her now or wait until she is three?"

This question was asked of a panel of experts. The parent got three different responses. One person responded that it took only one delay to receive Early Intervention services, another stated that she was probably more likely to see the problem since she'd had experience, and one told her that she should get her diagnosis now, so she could receive services from the school system when her child turned three. The last answer was probably the answer the parent was seeking. She just wanted some confirmation that what she wanted to do was right.

The three different answers to her question were all correct. Yes, her child qualified for services now. Yes, due to her previous experience, she probably was correct in her assumption and yes, she should get a diagnosis now. The total of the answers gave her a more complete answer, but only when you have a group of professionals do you receive that kind of answer. Usually, it's a matter of asking the same question to different people at different times before they all add up to such a complete answer.

So, as I stated at the beginning of this article - Ask until you get the right answer. What you knew instinctively as a child was right.

Copyright 2001 Pat Linkhorn

Pat Linkhorn is the Editor of Special Education at and a professional advocate for families with children who have special needs. She is also an experienced parent and has two girls with special needs - autism and blindness due to prematurity.

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