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Catching more flies with honey... (problem solving)

(92 Posts)
BeeMom Fri 12-Jul-13 14:22:11

You may have heard the adage "you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar" and i have definitely found this is true, particularly dealing with the officious gints we encounter on this unusual journey that we are taking.

When I need something for the dcs, I try to do as much of the footwork for the "other party" as possible. I come to the meeting/discussion with the problem clearly defined and several potential solutions, including what I need to contribute, what they need to contribute, and what we can do together.

I know what is absolutely non-negotiable from my viewpoint, and where that does not match up with their non-negotiable points.

I also try and wrap my head around how I will react and what steps are next if my contributions are ignored or rebuffed. Surprisingly enough, I don't need to go into that "fallback" position very often.

I always try to remind myself that we do likely have the same goals (but very different motivations and limitations). Above all, I do my best to avoid becoming defensive or adversarial, not demanding or rigid, and I never expect to get my way (that way, it is a really nice surprise when I do).

I have lots of friends who ask how we manage to stay sane through all these challenges - and frankly I think that this is a big reason. We generally get what we ask for - not necessarily in the format we have requested, and definitely not right when we ask, but we eventually find a way to accomplish what we need.

I have come along to support friends at meetings, and seen how things go right down the plug hole as soon as they start to lose their temper, demand instead of ask, say where things are wrong instead of looking at the positive first... and once the first negative personal comments ("you are not doing..." "you are failing...") come out, the meeting might as well be over.

Maybe it is because a million years ago in my professional life, it was my job to work with people in exceptionally stressful situations, first as a paramedic, then working in mental health services. While I do find the lead-up to the meetings stressful, I rarely walk out of a meeting wanting to do away with every other person in the room.

However... there are still those days where you desperately want to hurl the vinegar bottle and watch the damn flies scatter... how do you manage to get through those times without damaging relationships permanently with the people you have to work with?

MumuDeLulu Fri 12-Jul-13 19:39:51

Truthfulness is often good, can cut through the damn flies.

"I'm feeling so frustrated re issue x, we need y to happen, it's hard to be so powerless <permit genuine tears>"

"How would you suggest tackling this if he were your nephew? [NB Always niece/ nephew. Never 'your child']"

"Unresolved Issue x is really damaging my trust in your service"

MumuDeLulu Fri 12-Jul-13 19:41:45

If the table needs to be banged, always delegate that. Ideally to a tame professional, but dad, auntie/ uncle or gran if need be.

BeeMom Sat 13-Jul-13 00:41:45

Thank you - particularly for the "your child" tip.

I have found that playing nicely and professionally (and being willing to defer, or at least prioritise) has almost entirely prevented the table banging... in fact, in Bee's life, only on one occasion has it truly been required (and exceptionally justified).

It led to someone's dismissal from their employment, as my complaint in the meeting was apparently the last straw (Bee was only 2 months old and in hospital at the time, the Managing Director of the Social Work department ended up involved because of this person's behaviour, and the SW in question was summarily dismissed).

inappropriatelyemployed Sat 13-Jul-13 08:16:57

I am glad you have a strategy which works for you but it absolutely wouldn't and doesn't work with my LA.

We have nothing like the 'same goals'. Their only motivation is keeping costs low. But even when costs are the same or not substantially increased, they have one way of doing things and so kick at doing anything differently. They don't agree to meet, discuss and even when everyone else agrees: school, parents, all professionals, they do whatever they like.

In fact it doesn't matter if I use vinegar or honey, the outcome is the same. They do nothing unless you take legal action against them.

So, my worry with what you say is that you are suggesting that success in 'getting what you want' is somehow down to the way a parent conducts themselves in a meeting. This is not my experience and it might lead to others blaming themselves for poor outcomes if they cannot be as professional and smooth as you.

I feel this is very rarely the case as whatever I say, I am rarely listened to in a way which makes a difference. I have years of prevarication, vile behaviour and having to take legal action to get them to follow the law. if they sit in a meeting and tell me they are concerned for my son, I shall tell them bluntly that concern for my son is my job and theirs is to educate him in accordance with the law.

The reality is that outcomes are more dependent on whether your LA is willing to follow the law than your own personal attributes.

Certainly, parents shouldn't feel they can only 'get what they want' if they are a smooth operator or that standing up for themselves will somehow result in a worse outcome for their child. There is every difference between rudeness and speaking your mind and parents should never be dissuaded from the latter or encouraged to develop some kind of Stockholm syndrome.

So yes, be firm and try not to be rude but remember flies play in shit most of the time and I think that is more important than the way you say things

squidworth Sat 13-Jul-13 08:40:49

This is dependent on the child as well, for me, two boys with needs so very different the same LA but two completely different approaches needed in gaining the support they need. With one it was very relaxed he is a child with clearly identified needs, I never had any problems with the LA (Lea, NHS, OT and SS), the other child I had to prove at all levels the needs and more important what was failing him, I never banged tables but I also was not up for compromise as generally what I was arguing against was the failing of there compromised provision.

inappropriatelyemployed Sat 13-Jul-13 09:15:04

I think that is a good point. I think parents of children with Aspergers or so-called HFA can really struggle as there is so little in terms of provision and they 'look the same' as everyone else.

BeeMom Sat 13-Jul-13 13:15:27

OK, fair enough - I am ridiculous.

From the tones of some of the posts here, I wonder if the expectations are adversarial conflict because there has been so much water under the bridge that it has been washed away. I do acknowledge that support needs of less "involved" dcs can be more challenging (I have dealt with that myself, remember that I have a DS 7 years older than Bee who has HFA).

I guess I am living in Pollyanna land and should be fighting tooth and nail with all persons in authority instead of working to find mutually beneficial middle ground. Maybe I should not be willing to accept that my children with additional needs are my children 24/7 and only "belong" to the school for 6-7 hours a day, 172 days a year. Those are a lot of days and hours I have to work with them to help them with tasks and tools that are transferable to a school environment.

I will bow out gracefully before I am further told I am idiotic and delusional.

Iirc Bee, you are living in a different country and culture!?

bochead Sat 13-Jul-13 14:25:46

Beemom - I do think a LOT depends on the culture of your particular local gov. Mine are horrible, but it's not uniformly awful across the UK.

In my area a 14 yr HFA child has just committed suicide, and the attitudes of those in charge STILL aren't for changing. angry I'm not the only family I know who has been treated appallingly, & the ONLY time I've ever got bolshy was when I called the police after my son experienced his SECOND physical assault by those paid to look after him (the 1st time I didn't want to make enemies so didn't report). I come on here to let off the steam I dare not in RL.

I have friends who are praying the coroner can achieve what no one else has done - a sea change in attitudes. For myself I'm getting the hell out of dodge, before my child suffers any more damage at their hands. I don't have the parental rights you mention here, even on medical matters.

TBH BeeMom I don't disagree with you on a general level. But I'm pretty sure that the majority here started with the honey approach and only started to rock boats when they realised that it was being taken advantage of and that they were running out of time. Many on here lament the years they spent NOT arguing for their child.

I also don't think many people here demand or accuse. We all know to keep on topic, to the point and unemotional, with our tempers in check is the only way to keep our dignity or be taken seriously. The problem is when the professionals start accusing, banging tables and waffle on for hours on end as a diversion, or simply an emotional justification for some poor service as a reaction to a calm and well-reasoned respectful plea of a parent.

Your post has upset me. This is because what you say is a reflection of what so many believe 'out there' and it is dangerous to allow that belief to prevail because it automatically isolates parents as having a 'one off' bad experience or doubting themselves, and concludes with an apathy to change cultures or experiences which is where the route of the problems predominately lie.

These people might not be evil, but they behave in alarming ways towards parents who they see as dangerous to their belief system and culture. These parents are the ones who can present a reasoned argument calmly and politely, ask for evidence, refer to policy. These parents are asking for something many professionals have got away with ignoring for years allowing their egos to run their work unchallenged. The professionals are not used to accountability and are incredulous that they should have to explain themselves, especially when given the culture they are a part of they often can't.

That might not be their fault, but regardless, it IS their job. And their failure to do it impacts on the life chances of vulnerable children.

inappropriatelyemployed Sat 13-Jul-13 17:34:06

You are not delusional and I am really glad things have worked out for you.

But I am a sane, civilised, professional person and I'd like to think I am courteous and generous in my time.

This matters not a jot!

You mistake what I say. I do 'work with' people. I have a team of professionals who are completely onside but I have had to fight tooth and nail to get them in place. But this team of people helping me and my son makes no difference because it still doesn't stop the LA ignoring EVERYONE and choosing to not provision in place as if they were somehow separate from the evidence they have a duty to consider.

This is, of course, about costs. I know this. But with a son out of school and my life on hold for the third time in three years, and an LA ignoring everything everyone says, I have to say I am long passed thinking anything I say makes any difference so I may as well call it as I see it.

MumuDeLulu Sun 14-Jul-13 11:18:35

I think BeeMom's approach is the most effective one most of the time. Even when dealing with people who are failing us. Even though I agree with Star and IE's comments about the limitations of the 'nice' approach.

To continue the Stockholm analogy: the low-level guards staff don't have the authority to free us disregard policy, and banging the table makes it less likely they will disobey or challenge their illegal orders.

MumuDeLulu Sun 14-Jul-13 11:24:46

In fact, I profoundly disagree with analysis of the Stockholm syndrome proper as a psychiatric illness. For a powerless captive, it can be life saving. Being able to take on some of their captors' emotions and beliefs is generally an adaptive response, even with the inevitable side effects.

MumuDeLulu Sun 14-Jul-13 11:29:04

IE has escaped (for now), and mini-IE is at home for the moment.
Mini-Star has been transferred to a much more benign jurisdiction.
BeeMom (through Bee's need for care) is still dependent on the jailers

SallyBear Sun 14-Jul-13 12:28:39

Beemom. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I have three DC with statements for a variety of reasons, and I strongly believe in fostering relationships. I have a good relationship with my LA, and because we have been "in the system" for the last 12 years I have learned who to talk to, who to avoid and who ultimately says yes.

Sally It upsets me that for those of us who have not managed to foster good relations with our LA's that anyone could consider it was our fault.

Who doesn't want a good relationship with their LA? Who hasn't tried and put thought and effort into their communications, meetings, thank you letters and end of year presents to ensure that as much gratitude and praise is given as possible for a smooth path and good partnership working.

I think sometimes it just takes one person to take a disliking to you for whatever reason for the internal communications to flow freely and damagingly. For us that was triggered by a parental request for SA before ds started school, against the recommendations of the Autism Advisory Team. It was pretty much game over from then on.

SallyBear Sun 14-Jul-13 13:05:37

Sadly, I do think that a Parental request for SA that goes against professionals is as you say often "game over". This happened to a friend of mine. She applied against school's wishes and when they went to the LA (same as mine btw), there was a definite sense that the decision was made even before the parents opened their mouths. The Ed Psych tried to swing it in the favour of the parents but the LA were having none of it as the HT had written a report which led them to be at sunk before they started. hmm

I've been very lucky, I've got the things I needed doing pretty much 90% of the time, whether I can swing getting DS1's hours increased from 20 to 30 is debatable but I've put in a good case with school's backing for the increase. We started off being joint funded by PCT and LA with DD 12 years ago, and I have had the same LA SEN case worker for the last 8 years. She's been brilliant. When DS4 needed to be moved from MS to SS she was very supportive and helped the process along by getting us onto the SS Approval panel at very short notice, as DS4 couldn't continue where he was.

I do think things were different 10 or so years ago.

We did get a SA and then statement on first go, with parent application. The Autism service weren't against it per se, only against it happening before ds started school iyswim because they didn't want to fund any preschool support. They were offering 1 hour a week of a nursery nurse in the home. 10 years ago they were offering 10-15 hours automatically, without statement or even dx. In fact just 8 years ago my LA was giving £10k to families towards a home programme preschool.

I'm not sure I had a choice but to go for a parental request. We were getting nothing, not even SALT. OT refused referral for ASD and the early intervention timebomb was ticking.

But parents before me had accepted this. So I was the black sheep, though only asking for my ds' legal entitlement.

SallyBear Sun 14-Jul-13 13:30:12

Then you were probably instrumental in facilitating this change in your area. There's a reason why we are all so doggedly determined to get the help that our children so obviously need. Sadly it's less of a battle for some to achieve this but a harder fight for others.

But at least we have MN SN board to spur us on. smile

No, I came along after they'd closed everything down.

They whinged at me all the time about their team having halved whilst the number of children dx at preschool had tripled like I would agree how unreasonable I was being in requesting a SA to secure some support at what they insisted could only be at the expense of other children.

How is that my responsibility to address? How was it my 3yr old ds'?

I was treated like I was greedy, grabbing and reported for DLA fraud by the LA as in their opinion there were other children more needy. Someone (a MNer at the time, perhaps still) was responsible for this and for reporting me to social services to make a request that I was never given respite.

This all appeared in the minutes of a governors meeting of a school we were considering for ds plus a claim that I had been banned from MN for SEN propaganda. The HT of that school chose to believe it all as if it were fact. For 2 years these plus other rumours had been circulated without me having a clue, and despite moving across county to get away from the rumours that I KNEW were being spread where I lived (delivered to me by my vicar).

Honestly. This post makes me sound insane. I'd forgotten it. I must depart now and write it up for IEs data capture campaign.

zzzzz Sun 14-Jul-13 14:00:09

star I've heard snippets of your life on here over the years. I have a poor memory and have been on my own roller coaster, so retain little. I'm not sure if I've ever posted how truly extraordinary and awful these glimpses of your story are. I don't for a second think they aren't true, or that you are insane. Your "voice" is very measured and often very wise. I suspect you should be very proud of yourself. HONK HONK.

tessietribunal Sun 14-Jul-13 14:20:18

Starshock
These are the stories that you just couldn't make up but that sound so unbelievable. It's just awful what a lot of parents have to go through in simply trying to meet their children's needs.
This is the real danger - schools and professionals believing what they are told and pre-judging rather than reaching their own conclusions.
I do believe that my ds was pre-judged when we moved to a new school and nothing he could have done would have prevented them from having that view. It blighted his life there and any complaint by me was simply ignored by the school who always 'knew best'. sad

zzzzz Sun 14-Jul-13 14:20:38

As for "honey" not "vinegar", I don't think it makes that much difference where I live. I get on well, almost to a man with the professionals in ds's life. I am disgustingly presentable, articulate, and an all round box ticker. blush. On top of that I have "managed" people from an early age.

It makes little difference because what's on offer (pitifully little) is NOT productive or useful. I don't think it is rationed, I think it is a mirage.

The true difference between handling professionals well and getting their backs up/offending them, is that some professional when roused can be vicious. The "vinegar" group then have to deal with the onslaught to their self esteem, as well as coping with inadequate support.

bochead Sun 14-Jul-13 15:39:35

tbh I'm not & never have been a "confronter" by nature. Growing up with a younger sibling with SERIOUS behavioral challenges meant any of that was trained out of me before I ever went near anyone connected professionally with my own child.

I was trained into being a "smoother-over" and to always keep the peace before I was old enough to have any comprehension of what that might mean in adult relationships. I suspect some posters here may be raising NT siblings in a similar manner, whether or not they are aware it's happening.

My previous career (the one I had to give up through inability to get DS support) was built on my ability to create, build and foster relationships. For years I got new work solely(indy contractor) on the word of mouth from previous clients.

Just recently I've been planning a total lifestyle change, & it's been truly disconcerting to speak to people who don't automatically treating me like the crap off their shoe. Seriously - I think I may have to have counselling for it, it's been such a massive shock to my system! My friend had to pour me a large G&T Friday night when I had a mini-panic attack at this realisation, so unused had I become to not being the kicked dog.

I'm the same person, discussing the same child, in the same manner. The difference in perception is incredible from authorities that have even a fraction of the facilities my child needs.

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