A new student walks into your office and sits down on the first day of her practicum. You begin your orientation about your program, starting with an overview of early intervention. You start by discussing Part C of IDEA and about halfway through your explanation, the student politely interrupts and asks…”What’s Part C again?” Yikes.
If you are student, please don’t be offended because we’ve all been there. There is SO much to learn when entering the EI field that it is difficult to take it all in. One of the very best ways to learn about EI is to see it in action, which is why practica and internships are so important. Even more important than seeing it is actually participating and getting hands-on experience with children and families in natural settings. Nothing is more powerful than being a part of the change you see in a child’s development through early intervention, which is why WE as early intervention personnel must step up and take time to train students. Easier said than done, I know, with high caseloads and limited resources, but the alternative is unacceptable too. We want to work with well-trained, highly qualified colleagues and the students you meet are your future colleagues.
What can you do to support them? Here are a few DOs and DON’Ts:
DO volunteer and share the experience
There are always students needing practical experience so volunteer to be a mentor when the need arises. Share what you know and I promise that you will learn from your student too.Help your student make connections with other providers in other disciplines. Encourage them to join visits with other providers. You might have to help them make these arrangements but it’s worth the effort to broaden their experiences.
DON’T have your student be your personal filing clerk
Students say that the best part of their experiences are the practical work they do with families. Sure, a little bit of filing helps you, but make sure that they actually get hands-on experience with families (supervised of course). Let them take the lead with a family you regularly support, write up the contact notes, and plan for visits. Let them “get their feet wet!”
DO coach and reflect
Just as we do with families, use coaching to help students learn how to support children and families. Follow each session with reflection to help the student think about what happened and why. The ride in the car back to the office offers a perfect time for reflection.
DON’T spend the visit talking to the student about the child/family
First, ask the parent’s permission to bring a student and let the parent how the visits will work. Include everyone in all discussions and use teachable moments as opportunities for everyone to learn. Prepare the student for her role during the visit by giving history before you both meet the family. During the visit, be sure that you don’t end up talking about the child and family as if they weren’t there. I have seen this happen and it takes the provider being mindful to avoid it.
DO Let your student practice completing paperwork
I know, this one sounds really dull but paperwork is a real part of EI. Have your student write an IFSP based on the IFSP team discussion, then compare what he wrote with the actual IFSP. Have him complete the same assessment tool you’re using during the team assessment then compare findings (once back at the office). Invite him to write a contact note after a visit and critique it together.
When you can, invite a student along and share your wealth of knowledge and experience!
What other DOs and DON’Ts do you have for training students?