VCSP Services format
By the time the Communication Specialist meets with a client, there has usually been enough discussion to have a sense of some of the tools and support strategies that may be helpful and/or necessary. Often information about effective accommodations is obtained from the individual’s treatment providers with the individual’s consent. This information is gathered during the intake process.
There are exceptions to the format of VCSP assignments. As an accommodation there is sometimes a need to work with the client for a longer period of time (or over the course of several days) before and after the meeting, for example, to reinforce information or a need to refocus after escalation. This is an example of how a CSS always takes an individual approach to the accommodation being provided.
Every assignment starts with a 30 minute pre-meeting. It is during this time that a communication plan is developed with the client. Every assignment is different and accommodations are different for each individual. The CSS uses the pre-meeting to explore with the client what will work best for them. Pre-meetings can happen with or without an attorney. It is always preferable to have time to talk about communication, the process and accommodations before talking about the case. A CSS can use this time to:
Explore with the client how the client’s disability affects their communication and what has worked well in the past, and what should be considered moving forward
Check on the client’s understanding about what the meeting/hearing is about and who will be participating. Identify any questions the client may have and who the best person would be to answer those questions.
Help the client organize and focus on their communication
Discuss the process and meeting / courtroom etiquette and reinforce that everyone will get a turn to speak
Offer role play opportunities
Talk about appropriate tools & strategies they could employ as part of the communication plan.
Meeting / Hearing
With a good communication plan the CSS interactive role during the meeting or hearing itself may vary. A CSS will be prepared in the meeting or hearing to do the following when needed:
Every assignment ends with a 30 min post-meeting. The CSS will stress the importance of a post-meeting during the pre-meeting. An attorney may or may not be present. During a post-meeting the CSS may:
Review information from the meeting
Employ de-escalation techniques
Identifying next steps including in the moment access to paperwork if appropriate
Tools & Strategies
A CSS will share the importance of a commitment to effective communication with their client and that is important for their experience regardless of the outcome. VCSP's main mission is to make sure a client is given the opportunity to participate in the proceeding to the best of their ability. If a client believes that they were given a chance to say what they wanted to say and understood what was being communicated as best as they could, it results in a fair process.
One of the most important “tools” in a CSS toolkit is neutrality. A CSS is not on anyone’s side. A CSS is always on the side of effective communication and justice.
Most of the tools in a CSS toolbox are verbal strategies and techniques which is why we can provide valuable support in the remote world. These tools include but are not limited to:
Review the purpose of the meeting or hearing and who are the likely participants
Meeting process and etiquette and why it is important.
Support client comprehension
Support organization of information like making lists, prioritizing questions and information
Needs around de-escalation and emotional support
Technology checks and steps required to connect remotely
The need for breaks and / or deep breathing techniques to ease anxiety
Agreement on verbal cues to maintain focus
A CSS always is prepared with a bag of tools for in-person assignments. For remote assignments a CSS can encourage the client to make use of physical supports that they can find or create and use during the meeting. There are variety of tools and strategies that can be utilized and/or implemented.
Note pads & pens
An open text line for remote services
A tablet or laptop for hybrid services (in person CSS with a remote meeting or hearing)