The Importance of Parent Communication
There's a big difference between people who view their work as a j-o-b and people who are passionate about what they do. When I see someone passionate about helping others, I get excited! I get inspired! Michele Pettenati is one of those people who has a passion and love for what she does. Recently I had the opportunity to chat with Michele for a bit and she shared why parent communication is such an important part of her work.
Hi Michele. Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed. Please tell us a little bit about your work experience.
I am a Certified Occupational Therapy (OT) Assistant and I've been working in the OT field for 31 years. During that time, I have serviced 600 or more students in a few different school districts.
Wow! That's pretty amazing. What is your typical work day like?
I work 8:10 AM to 3:16 PM each day. I have a schedule that I follow and each half hour of the day is used for a different student. Students are transported to my room and each child has his or her own lesson plan and goals. We work on fine motor skills and strengthening. I am a salaried position but my work day does not stop at 3:16. I usually complete my Medicaid paperwork until 5 p.m. Then go home to see my family. After dinner I spend one or two hours each night working on lesson plans and searching the internet for ideas for fine motor activities. I also work on continuing education of my skills. I take courses on OT Today and I love to work on making my program the best that there is. Throughout the day and even evenings, I also make parent contact.
You certainly have a busy work week. What type of things do you do to stay in contact with parents?
Parent communication is so important. At the very least, we have annual IEP meetings that I attend. However, I call or email parents when it is necessary to discuss a problem or concern. I also love contacting a parent when a child has successfully completed a goal! Monthly team meetings, parent conferences and quarterly report cards are key as well.
Why is parent communication important to you?
I am happy that parents feel free to share their child with me. I feel that if there is a problem or a question the parent is the first person that should know about their child. Without their input, most goals and plans for each child are not really personalized.
Is there a "success" story that you care to share that supports the importance of maintaining good communication with parents?
All children are a success whether it is big or small. I had a student one time that could not tie her shoe. We worked on it for many months. When this student could finally tie her sneaker, mom was called and she bought her daughter a new pair of TIE sneakers. This student was so proud of herself and she is a living working productive member of our community today!
That's a great example! I also remember a mom who celebrated her daughter's OT milestones by bringing us McDonalds at lunch time! What advice would you give to other OT providers regarding parent communication?
Parent communication is very important and it is fun to get to know the family. It gives a full picture of who the child is and where he or she has come from. Knowing the family and learning about the child's home life to me is the most crucial thing. When you are working on the goals of a child, a parent's input is vital.
What advice would you give to parents regarding communicating with their child's OT provider?
Most children have a communication log or notebook that the parent can write in and we would love to hear from the parent daily. Be honest and be open and realize that the OT is there to help their child. When we ask you to come to a parent conference or an IEP meeting or a team meeting make it your priority. We do want to
meet with you.
Anything else you care to share?
I love what I do and I enjoy the love that I share with all my students.
Thank you for your time Michele and for your passion in being an OT provider. You'll never know the full extent of the impact that you're having on students and their families. Keep up the great work!