We know that, in early intervention, collaboration between the parent and the service provider is critical for successful intervention. For years, early intervention practitioners have espoused a use of family-centered practices, which means that we partner with families, respect and encourage their decision-making, support their active participation, and focus on the child’s development within the context of the family.
What is less clear is how we do these things. There has been a call in the early intervention literature for more clearly defined practices that help early intervention service providers know exactly what to do with a child and family to ensure that the family feels both confident and competent using intervention strategies when the service provider is not present.
As a field, there is a need to define and describe the effective practices we use so that all providers have the tools they need to help children and families meet their goals. Many of the strategies we do have focus on the work of the early interventionist during the visit with the child. We need strategies to help us focus on what the family does when we are not in the home or other natural environment. Strategies such as these would give EI practitioners guidance in how to work with families during visits in ways that help families know what to do with their children during family activities that happen between visits.
To begin this discussion, here are 5 strategies that may help you help families bridge the gap between the visit and the rich activities and experiences that occur during the rest of the week:
- Ask families specific questions about their routines to find out what goes well and where the struggles are. Find out how the routine works for this particular family, what happens before, during, and after the routine, and how the parent thinks the routine could be improved or changed to address the goal in mind.
- Think of visits as practice sessions for parents during which they get to try out strategies with their children with your support and feedback.
- Shape the visit to meet a specific need. Identify the need or goal through discussion with the family, observation of the routine, and by joining the routine when you can to practice strategies and address development in real time.
- Talk with the parent after the intervention activity to find out his/her impressions, what he/she thinks went well, and which strategy he/she thinks can be used during the week.
- Develop a brief but detailed plan with the parent for how the family will try to implement a strategy or two during the week. Individualize the plan to fit an agreed-upon family activity or routine. Write it down. Always follow-up on the plan at the beginning of your next visit.
Now consider the following questions:
What other strategies do YOU use to bridge this gap?
How might you implement one of the strategies above?
What challenges have you faced with focusing on family routines during intervention visits?
Share you insights, strategies, questions, and challenges below. Let’s learn from each other and use this opportunity to build stronger practices in Virginia!