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The Importance of the Decision-Making Process

We make hundreds of decisions daily. Have you ever stopped to think HOW you make the choices that you do?  The importance of the decision-making process cannot be underestimated as illustrated below.

There has been a steady increase of books written by behavioral researchers on the thought processes involved in how we make decisions. According to neuroscientists, there are two distinct methods. SYSTEM #1 is emotionally-driven, fast, and prone to be viewed as judgmental. SYSTEM #2 is data-driven, slow, and methodical in focus. Why would an advocate care about these two paths? Parents. The overwhelming majority of parents that I meet use SYSTEM #1 to make decisions – whether they realize it or not.

Want to know what SYSTEM #1 decisions look like? Here are a couple of examples:

Family A: 4 in total: 2 boys and 2 working parents with high-end technical jobs. We met when a change in school for the younger child due to IEP (Individualized Education Program) challenges was considered. I had given input to prepare the family on tours of each campus along with questions to ask. When we met again 3 weeks later to review the information, I was told that the application had been accepted, fees paid, and placement guaranteed to this new student. The switch was seamless and the family was incredibly excited. The new student was adjusting very well to the new curriculum and making friends… all to the delight of mom and dad. Five weeks later, progress reports went home. That’s when I got a call to meet again. The parents and I went through the checklist of discussion topics. What we found were several questions that had not been addressed in the school tour. Specific details had been overlooked or miscommunicated. This is not a written account to pass blame to anyone involved – rather it serves to show the involvement of those playing a role in the decision-making. While the classes were small, the campus clean and well-appointed, led by professionally-staffed and caring teachers, and with proper accreditation, it was not the best fit for this new student. When we reviewed the responses to the questions and dug deeper to discuss how decisions had been made, these were common in my notes:

‘It reminded me…’ (SYSTEM #1); ‘I felt like…’ (SYSTEM #1); ‘Our child looked like…’ (SYSTEM #1); ‘I just knew…’ (SYSTEM #1); ‘The students seemed…’ (SYSTEM #1).

These responses had been emotionally-driven. The judgments on the information had been made almost instantaneously in every case. They also relied solely on personal opinion rather than data/numbers/or direct measurements when drilled down. Here’s another example:

Family B: 7 in total: 2 boys, 3 girls, and 2 working parents. We all came together to discuss behavior and academic supports in the local public school for one of the children. The family was prompt and amazing in putting to practice a range of structure adjustments into the home. It made for overall improved behavior. Other issues started to come to light after 2 months. I was contacted again and found out that the child in question had been placed on 2 new medications and was about to be switched to another. To pinpoint what was going on – mom kept a ledger to detail day-to-day happenings. In that time, another medication had been added to support sleep. When we met to go over the information another 2 weeks later, SYSTEM #1 thinking started to emerge. Dad was insistent that the root issue was typical because he was like that when he was at that age (SYSTEM #1). Mom added that 2 other kids were on the same medication without issue (SYSTEM #1). She got the feeling that the new teacher didn’t know how to handle their child (SYSTEM #1). Grandma stated that she felt it boiled down to diet (SYSTEM #1) and the child was the baby of the family (SYSTEM #1). Again, this is not shared in an effort to pass blame to anyone involved, it serves to show the process of the decision making. The responses had been emotionally-driven. The perceptions were made on personal opinions rather than on data/numbers/or direct measures.

There is a happy ending to share. Despite the SYSTEM #1 choices made in both scenarios, SYSTEM #2 choice modifications resulted in much better outcomes. This required clear communication. At times, it took multiple people to gather data. It took respectful sharing. The biggest challenge: it took time.

Every single one of us makes choices every single day. We are all bombarded with a great deal more information and input as well. It is critically important to take time to qualify the information and to be specific.

As an advocate, I firmly believe in choice whether related to health, education, or wellbeing – my only hope is that the choices made are SYSTEM #2 supported.

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To read more about behavioral science of choice: Thinking, Fast & Slow (Kahneman), Nudge (Sunstein), Predictably Irrational (Ariely), Wiser (Sunstein & Hastie), Scarcity (Mullainathan & Shafir).

Heather Lascano is the founder of Neuro Touch Inc. – an IRS designated 501c3 and Florida Corporation. Neuro Touch focuses on bridging connections in education through unique advocacy and services. Mrs. Lascano utilizes her professional experiences in conflict negotiation, sensory motor skills, stress management, and drug development research to connect with families, educators, and professionals who support children with learning delays.

 

Written by Heather Lascano

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