In-Home Assessment Tips

The function of the IHSS in-home assessment is for your social worker to see your child engaging in behaviors that you think are concerning and warrant the need for protective supervision. In this recorded live stream, advocate, Larry Rosen explains a few common sense tips to help you exhibit your child’s need for Protective Supervision during the in home assessment.

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Video Transcription & Notes:

“Juggling” Analogy: The need to demonstrate behavior

I want to make this very very clear. I’m going to use an analogy in order to make this point. If you are concerned about your child “juggling”. I know juggling is not really a behavior but I’m using this analogy. So if your concern is that your child “juggles”, it is really important that your in home assessment of the social worker sees your child juggling. If in fact that’s not on something that occurs, you need to show your social worker and some of the documents that at some point your child has either been observed to juggle. Or your child has been reported to have juggled in reports. It’s really important that you be able to corroborate whatever your concerns are during the in-home assessment.

Today we’re going to talk about ways that you can more effectively make it so that you can demonstrate that your child juggles. Once again that’s analogy.

Eliminate Distractions & Behavior Suppression Aids

First thing I want to state about the in-home assessment is, that it’s important that the social worker sees your child in a typical setting. And that the setting is not distorted so that it’s easier for your social worker to conduct their assessments. One of the things that I commonly have seen during assessments is the social workers attempting to engage a child and then turns on a television. Or perhaps maybe asking the parents to give the child a phone. Or maybe a tablet in order to make the assessment easier for the social worker in terms of asking questions of the parents.

What’s really important is that the social worker sees your child in a setting that is typical of the concerns you have for protective supervision. So as I stated before, if in fact you’re concerned for your child juggling, it’s really important that if you have the ability to have your child juggle in front of the social worker, you make it possible for your child to juggle in front of the social worker.

Supporting Documentation

You want to have copies of your documentation ready for the social worker. It makes things much easier for the process. Below are some types of documentation that you should have.

  • School documents
  • IEPs
  • Psych assessment(s)
  • Regional Center documents
  • ABA reports
  • Third-party documentation
  • Any supporting docs from doctors and/or therapists

Ask Your Child Questions

You also have the ability to ask your child questions. Obviously the social worker is the individual that’s conducting the assessment. But there is no reason why you can’t ask your child questions that you know your child could not answer appropriately in front of social worker. Once again, the function of the assessment, in terms of protective supervision, is to demonstrate that your child has certain disabilities that would warrant the granting of protective supervision. And if you have the ability to demonstrate those during the assessment, well that’s the main purpose of the in-home assessments.

Example: “What would you do if there was a fire?”

I’m going to give you an example of something that just occurred on an assessment I took part in 2 weeks ago. This was an assessment in which a twelve-year-old child was asked by the social worker if they know how to use 911, or knew what 911 was. I think actually the question may have been, “What would you do if there was a fire?”. And of course the appropriate response would be to call 911. The reality is, most of our kiddos have been rotely taught in school that whenever this question comes up, they’re supposed to respond with, “you call 911”. So if you just simply go with the asking of a question and the response from from the child might seem like the child understands the process of 911. But I’m asking this question, “Does your child know how to use a phone?”.

Dig deeper

In this particular situation, I was on a zoom call and the family had a phone in front of them. The social worker asked the question of the child what they would do if there was a fire and the child responded, “call 911”. So I asked the child if they’d ever ordered a pizza; because you cannot ask somebody to call 911. That’s against the law. Especially if they actually are successful in hitting the numbers and the call goes through. That is technically a federal offense. You don’t want to actually use 911 when you do this.

So what I did was, I asked the child if they’ve ever ordered a pizza. Especially during the pandemic I would think it’s probably very typical for many of us to have either through an app on your phone, or from a phone number, at some point ordered food. It’s a reasonable request of some of 12 years olds. So i asked this child to order pizza, and what what came up in the exchange of trying to work the phone is that the child, even though they were able to remotely respond, “call 911” if there was a fire. It became quickly apparent that the child did not use a phone.

Can It be Demonstrated?

Even if there was, say for example a fire in the house, even if the child rotely said, “dial 911 if there’s an emergency”, the child couldn’t actually execute due to a lack of mental functioning. This therefore demonstrated that the child, at least in terms of orientation, had an inability to use a handheld device. By having them actually demonstrate the practice of using the device versus just responding with with a phrase, “call 911”, it clearly gave a different outcome to the social workers assessment.

Focus on the purpose of the in-home assessment

I also want to remind everybody that when the social workers is at your house, you are not having tea with the social worker. That’s not the function. You’re not there to have a nice little get-together with somebody for 45 minutes while you complete paperwork. The function of the in-home assessment is to watch your child.

Once again, just keep in mind when you do the in-home assessment, you want to make sure that whatever you do, you’re taking steps to make sure that the social worker receives your child in a true light. Not in a light in which your child is, for lack of better words, euphemised buy a television, or buy a handheld device, or buy a tablet, or whatever the comfort item is in which will cause a child with a developmental disability to zone out and appear to be completely calm. And then when the social worker leaves, an hour later, your child may be jumping all over the furniture and trying to run out the front door, or banging their head… The idea is, you want to have your child’s behavior witnessed by your social worker.

The Michigan J. Frog Analogy

I watched a lot of cartoons when I was a kid. There’s one cartoon that’s always resonated with me when i discuss this. And that would be, for those of you who are Warner Brothers, bugs bunny fans, if you’re familiar with the frog. In fact, the frog is the logo that’s currently used by Warner Brothers network. It’s the dancing frog that has the little top hat and a little dancing stick.

In the cartoon what happens is, a regular guy finds the frog and the frog is singing show tunes. And the guy that finds the frog thinks, “I’m going to make a million dollars”, because this is a frog that can sing and dance. So he takes the frog and tries to go as quickly as he can to a producer so that he can show the producer, “hey I’ve got this the singing frog”, thinking he can make a lot of money.

What ends up happening in the cartoon is, he gets right to the producer and the frog stops. When the producer comes in the room to see the frog, it’s a typical frog that just ribbits. My point here is that, if you can, you want to create a situation where the social worker sees your frog singing and dancing. Not your frog ribbiting. What I mean by that, is your child. If in fact, you’re concern with your child is certain behaviors, you want to make sure that those behaviors are behaviors that are witnessed, if you can, by your social worker.

Use good judgement with the TV scenario

You don’t want to put your child in a situation where they’re not going to engage in those behaviors. I state it this way because I’ve talked to parents on different occasions and I have some parents at tell me that their child will act out if they watch television. That actually, the behavioral escalate because of content on television. I’ve had other parents that tell me that their child will zone out if they watch television. So I can’t say television by itself is is either good or bad for your situation. You as the parent would know if your child would would act out by watching tv or your child would zone out by watching TV.

Keep focus on the purpose of in-home assessments

Understand that the function here is for your social worker to see your child engaging in those behaviors that you think are concerning for protective supervision.

When the child’s behavior, at the time, does not express the need for IHSS

In the event that your child doesn’t engage in those behaviors when the social worker is in the home, hopefully those behaviors have been witnessed in third-party documents so you can show your social worker that you know your child has been witnessed head banging at school, your child’s been witnessed to elope at therapy programs, your child’s been witnessed to engage in potentially self-injurious behavior in ABA report. There’s goals written for this stuff. Whether it’s in the IEP, or whether it’s in the ABA report. But at this point, if the behavior is not something that’s witness by the social worker at the assessment. This would clearly be something that you would want to identify in the documents.

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IHSS Tips | Common Sense Tips from advocate Larry Rosen | What to do & what not to do during your in-home assessments
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