In the most recent issue of Young Exceptional Children, Bonnie Keilty, Ed.D., wrote the “Voices from the Field” about using infant & toddler development and family systems as the framework for early intervention practice. She suggested that building effective practices around child and family development, family functioning and family systems would help practitioners do two important things: 1) be better prepared to implement effective practices and 2) better understand the link between recommended practices and their actual work with families. Both of these align well with the mission of this blog so naturally they snagged my attention.
Bonnie also described how this perspective could be woven throughout how we approach intervention and the strategies we use with children, how we support families, and what we expect of a competent EI workforce. This made me think about the scope of early intervention professional development (PD): how are we preparing and supporting early interventionists so that they have the knowledge and skills necessary to do the job well?
A Blog-to-Blog Collaboration
To be honest, I don’t think that I have or any one blogger has the answer but I do believe that combining ideas often leads to better things. I’m excited to join Bonnie and her colleague, Kristie Pretti-Frontczak, Ph.D., of B2K Solutions, Ltd. to do some thinking about this question and the framework Bonnie described in her article.
In a series of blog posts, I’m going to provide some strategies for PD providers and early interventionists about to how to use this framework to support effective practice, and Bonnie and Kristie are going to tackle strategies for administrators and families. We’ll include links to both blogs so that you can follow the discussion and share your ideas. You can start by reading the “Voices from the Field” article, then check out Bonnie’s first post, Developing and Promoting Early Intervention Expertise – What Administrators Can Do.
Three Ideas for Professional Development
So here we go. Here are three ideas for EI professional development using a common framework of child and family development:
Idea #1 – Let’s Raise the Bar on Professional Development Requirements
Okay, I started with a big one. I do believe that, as a field, we need to raise the bar for what we expect makes up a competent, highly qualified workforce. Imagine if all early interventionists had adequate foundational knowledge in infant-toddler development and family systems. Imagine if there were common standards for all early interventionists across our country. What if each state had minimum requirements for practitioners and for on-going professional development so that interventionists had to achieve and maintain a certain level of proficiency? I wouldn’t want a physician who was using outdated practices or who didn’t understand development helping me with my child; I think the same standard should apply to our field.
What can you do? – Review your state’s standards and start this conversation at the local and state levels.
Idea #2 – Let’s Rethink How University Training Programs Teach About Early Intervention
It’s not uncommon for early interventionists to enter the field with very little training in how to work with babies and families, how to provide intervention in family routines, or how to work outside of a classroom or clinic setting. Because there is so much to teach when training students, and EI is such a sub-specialty, the EI portion of the content in many programs is unfortunately quite minimal. Is there a way to equal the playing field and spend more time on EI content? Can more information about child development and family systems be woven into existing coursework? Can students be pointed to other resources that exist outside of university programs for this information?
What can you do? – Partner with your local universities. Have current service providers and administrators collaborate with faculty to review curricula and make improvements together.
Idea #3 – Let’s Make Ongoing Professional Development Available that Emphasizes the Interaction between Child Development and the Family System
Making sure that all interventionists understand the interaction between child development and the family context will help the pendulum swing from what is still practiced in some programs as a clinical model, to a more family-centered model of support. As Bonnie suggested, too, without this knowledge, it can be so hard see the link between what we should be doing and what we actually do with children and families. By making this information readily available and weaving family systems theory throughout our training opportunities, we can build the knowledge base and support providers in applying what they learn when interpreting development and supporting it in the context of where development naturally occurs.
What can you do? – Offer learning opportunities that teach and refresh these concepts. Link with other PD providers to share resources so that we aren’t all “reinventing” the wheel on these common training concepts.
What Do You Think?
We can teach interventionists how to fill out the IFSP form all day long but it won’t be meaningful without an understanding of development and the interconnectedness of the child to his/her family members. Maybe with a little collaboration and creativity across professional development systems, we can accomplish the goals we all have – that every interventionist is well-prepared and that children and families receive the supports they need.
What are your thoughts about using child and family development as the framework for EI professional development? What suggestions do you have for improving the preparation of early interventionists?