Too Much Experience?

Ron, my husband’s college roommate, was a heart surgeon.  He’d see former patients in town and he’d call out, “How long’s it been?”  He was asking, “How much longer have you lived because of the surgery?”  Ron was the best heart surgeon for miles around.  He had years of experience.  Did his surgical expertise just keep getting better?

No.  Ron’s surgical expertise grew at a time when he had excellent physical dexterity and precision.  He perfected his skills by performing hundreds of surgeries.  His expertise reached a high level of performance and plateaued over a period of several decades. A tipping point came when his physical agility could not execute at the level his patients needed.  He told me that most professionals reach a time when experience is not enough.

The practice of educational consulting follows the same arc.  In its building phase, consultants need to gain an understanding of kids’ needs and know which schools fit the needs.  Hundreds of schools are visited. Hundreds of children are placed.  A plateau of expertise is reached.  A list of diagnoses is compiled and matched with schools known to treat the conditions.  At this point the process can lose its vitality.  While consulting does not require physical agility, it does require a nimble mind which seeks out current treatment and isn’t content to stay with what worked in the past. Targeting the right therapeutic school for a child is too important to be boiled down to the formulaic.   Too much reliance on past experience can miss new and better options.

This is especially true now when therapeutic schools and programs are in a period of dramatic change.  They are becoming more specialized.  The length of treatment is becoming shorter and the therapeutic modalities more specific.  There is an increased ability and willingness to adapt curriculum and activities for kids who need “out-of-the box” attention.  Ed consultants must be aware of these changes and have the clarity to sort out what’s valid from what’s simply trendy.

With these changes I see more and more parents reclaiming the dreams they’ve had for their children.  The increased advocacy of ed consultants has resulted in the programs’ increased willingness to customize.  Experience alone does not make the good consultant.  Experience is the foundation, but good consulting must come from a nimble mindset which is open to suggestions from the family.  The most successful placements are the result of a dynamic partnership with parents, not a formulaic list of matches.

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