Recognition-Primed Decision (RPD) process

To read on Bringing Us Together website:

Why parents need to be included in decision making



One of the main concerns we hear from parents, and one of our main concerns as parents ourselves, is the lack of real involvement in our child or young person’s life.

We know we are an expert in our child or young person, and often practitioners are aware of this too.  However, what are the benefits of involving us in decision making?

Recognition-Primed Decision (RPD)  process

The RPD Process was created by research psychologists Gary Klein, Roberta Calderwood and Anne Clinton-Cirocco in the late 1980s.

The RPD Process details the 3 basic steps that we use, often without even thinking about them, when we need to make a quick decision.

The three steps are:

  1. Experience the situation
  2. Analyse the situation.
  3. Take action.

The RPD Process involves our knowledge and experience of our child and the importance that has when we have to make decisions quickly.

The RPD Process is based on recognising patterns and using our experience to analyse what will work.  So it’s not something you can pick up from a text book and apply.  Your knowledge and experience of your child is something you will never find in a text book – wouldn’t life be so much easier if it was?

Why is RPD Process important?

Without that knowledge and more importantly, experience, we tend to use “trial and error” methods to come up with a solution.  This can take up valuable time and resources, in services currently facing some of their biggest budget cuts to date.

Parents will tell you of several occasions when their child was failed by the system.  However, if you look into these stories further, it will often come down to the fact that the school/LA/Health or other provider didn’t tap into the knowledge and experience that parents have.

The child is failed, often when the parent can be heard saying “if I could just tell you” or “I’ve seen this before, I know what to do” but no one cares to listen.

Having a parent on board who can share their knowledge and experience is invaluable.  CCGs, LA, Social Care, Education and all providers really can’t afford not to use such a valuable asset.  They should be knocking down our doors and pleading with us to talk to them.

Not using this resource is the same as reading a book about how to fight fires and then turning up at a large fire and not listening to the Firefighter with 20 years experience.

It’s the same as watching an episode or two of House and then refusing to listen to the Neurologist with 30 years experience under their belt.

No one would be that stupid.  Okay, maybe a few people would be but every village requires an idiot.

So why do so many services and practitioners ignore the most valuable asset they have?

Can you imagine having a free unbelievably useful resource available to you and not using it?

Text books are great.  They can provide us with lots of useful information.  They can share case studies of other children and the experiences of many practitioners.  However, the text book will never replace individual knowledge and experience.  This knowledge and experience is something used in any person centred planning.  It’s why parents are often such great advocates when we are looking at how we can all help our child or young person to reach a goal.

This knowledge and experience of our children is not in any text book.    We are able to experience the situation (what’s the problem), analyse the situation (what are the options) and then make a rapid decision (take action).  This can be done quickly and without spending months (or even years) trying different methods because we know our child.

RPD process is hugely effective when behaviour crops up that maybe a new provider hasn’t seen before but as a parent, you remember it from a few years ago.

It works when there is a crisis and we need to make a decision quickly.  If your child has medical needs, the chances are you will have carried out certain procedures as often as any nurse.  What may appear to be a crisis to someone may just be a standard day for you or at least, something you have dealt with on a number of occasions or perhaps dealt with similar situations.

We can use the Recognition-Primed Decision process only when we have experience AND knowledge, of a situation.  Providers need to appreciate that we have this knowledge and experience and, for them more importantly, they need to know what the benefits are of using that.

The biggest benefit of using RPD Process is time and money.


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