Early Intervention Strategies for Success

Sharing What Works in Supporting Infants & Toddlers and the Families in Early Intervention

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  • EI Research to Practice Brief #3 – Collaboration between EI and the Medical Home(current)

A new pediatric practice has just opened in your city and expressed an interest in meeting with staff from your EI program. This practice identifies itself as aFather and Toddler with a Doctor “medical home” for children and you wonder, “What does that mean?” As far as you can tell, the physician and her staff are very interested in building a collaborative relationship with your program, individualizing care, and providing coordinated, family-centered services. You think, “Hmm, the way they operate sounds a lot like how WE operate…this could be the start of a great relationship!”

Clinical Report: What Do We Know?

According to a recently published clinical report in the journal of Pediatrics entitled, “Early Intervention, IDEA Part C Services, and the Medical Home: Collaboration for Best Practices and Best Outcomes,” the medical home process involves a way of providing family-centered primary medical care (Adams, Tapia, & the Council on Children with Disabilities, 2013). The authors of the article point out that the medical home process has much in common with the key components of early intervention, including focusing on early identification and referral of infants and toddlers with delays and disabilities, tracking of development, making sure that services are accessible to families and responsive to their needs, building community partnerships to boost coordination, and providing continuous monitoring to ensure that services are appropriate. Even the idea of the natural environment crosses both processes, with the physicians understanding that development happens during daily activities so intervention will be most effective when focused there. Both processes also use coaching to help families learn to meet their own needs and both require active participation from everyone to be successful.

Practice: How Can You Use What You Know?

The commonalities between the medical home process and early intervention are so important because, as the authors describe, both have been found to be effective in making long-term positive changes in children’s health and development. The authors of this article provide an overview of current evidence-based practices in EI, focusing on why services are provided in natural environments using coaching methods with families. This is important for physicians to understand so that they can help families know what to expect of early intervention and can assist families with monitoring the child’s services. Physicians are also some of our greatest referral sources so we want them to understand why we operate the way we do.

With this article in mind, here are a few practical strategies for how to use what you know:

Make time for your physician referral sources – If possible, schedule a meeting several times a year with the physicians in your area to talk about how EI works in your program, to plan for collaboration, etc. Be sure to take a treat or a token of thanks for their support!

Send a copy of this article to physicians in your area with a tea bag & a note – Send a nice note saying that you thought he/she might enjoy this article over a cup of tea. Offer to collaborate and invite the physician to call you with any questions or suggestions for how you can work together better.

Invite physicians to join an intervention visit or IFSP meeting – You might be surprised so extend the invitation. Reach out to a nearby medical school. I recently heard about a program in Northern VA where medical residents regularly join visits – how awesome is that! There is nothing like seeing intervention in action to help you understand how it works!

What strategies do you use to collaborate with physicians in your area? Have you worked with any physicians who use the medical home process? Share your ideas and experiences!

For more info on evidence-based practices that you can share with families and physicians, be sure to check out the archived webinar, “I Know It but Can’t Explain It: What the Evidence-Based Practices Are in EI” on our 2013 Talks on Tuesdays Recordings Page on the Virginia Early Intervention Professional Development Center site.


Adams, R. C., Tapia, C. & The Council on Children with Disabilities. (2013, October). Early intervention, IDEA Part C services, and the medical home: Collaboration for best practice and best outcomes. Pediatrics, 132(4), e1073-e1088.

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