I graduated in May 2013 from JMU with my Master’s degree in Inclusive Early Childhood Education. From the moment I stepped off stage after receiving my diploma I knew that I was destined to work in early intervention. I knew that I was ready to get my own caseload full of children and families who could use my support and expertise. I knew that every day I would make an impact on someone and go home feeling like I was on top of the world because I had made a difference. I knew what early intervention was all about and what I would be doing as a service coordinator (as soon as I had a job). In all reality, I was not prepared for some of the tasks and situations I have faced or the questions I have been asked as a service coordinator. Below are some things that would have been helpful to know before entering the EI field.
It Would Have Been Helpful To Know…
It’s okay to say no.
During my first few weeks, I began working with a family that consisted of a single mother with four children. Upon walking in the family’s home for my very first visit, the mom’s first words to me were: “So you’re gonna be the one to take me to get groceries and dress my kids and take care of all that other stuff that kids need, right?” My first thought was “Are you asking me to raise your children?!” But, being so new to the job and wanting to make a difference my response was “I can try to help you with everything that you need.” I quickly learned that trying to help ‘raise’ 45 kids (average caseload at my program) and their siblings is not feasible nor is it in my job description. I now know how to nicely say ‘no’ and I no longer feel bad afterwards.
Community resources are plentiful!
Many of the questions I get asked can all be answered by community resources. Over the past few months, I have been asked questions such as “I can’t pay my electric bill, what do I do”, “our food stamps have run out and we have no food, can you help”, or “how do I get a handicapped parking permit”. Fresh out of college, I would not have been able to answer any of these questions. Luckily, there will generally be community resources that you can use to address any of these questions. I have started my own list of community resources that I can refer to when a family asks me a question, and I have even given this list to families to empower them in meeting their own needs. Having a list of community resources can be a true lifesaver and a way to avoid a lot of stress!
There is no ‘typical’ home visit.
I have been going on home visits for almost 5 months now, and I can say with all honesty that I have never had a visit go as planned. Working with families means planning for the unexpected and being able to adapt to each situation (trust me, you’ll never be in the same situation twice). I have experienced food fights, total meltdowns (both from families and kiddos), snotty kisses, and hugs. I walked in to homes with children who have the climbing abilities of chimpanzees and the ‘flying’ abilities of eagles (needless to say I got a workout on those visits). There is no typical visit and I have learned that it is completely okay.
Every day is a new experience when you work in early intervention, especially as a service coordinator. I am constantly learning new things with each child and family I work with, and I wouldn’t want it any other way!
What is surprising about your job? What do you wish you had known before you began working in early intervention?
Casey Leary attended James Madison University where she completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Interdisciplinary Liberal Studies with a minor in Inclusive Early Childhood Education in the Spring of 2012. She then became a ‘Double Duke’ earning her Masters degree in the Spring of 2013. Casey now works as a Service Coordinator/Developmental Services Provider for the Infant & Toddler Connection of Harrisonburg/Rockingham. Casey can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.