During the intake visit, Elaine explains the early intervention (EI) process to Jaxon’s parents. First, she tells them that they are an equal and valued part of the EI team and she encourages them to be active participants in all aspects of the process. Then, when Jaxon’s father asks which services his son will receive, Elaine explains that “the team will determine services at the IFSP meeting.” When Jaxon’s parents discuss the intake that evening during dinner, his mother wonders about the EI team and isn’t sure if they are on the team, or if the team of professionals will make the decisions.
Why do you think this was confusing for Jaxon’s mother?
Are You Saying What You Mean?
Think back to the last time you used the word “team.” Did you tell a new family that “the team will come out to do the assessment…” or perhaps, “let’s schedule an IFSP meeting with the team.” Does this language sound familiar? If it does, take a moment and pause to think about what you said, and what you really meant. In our example above, Elaine explains the team approach to EI in two different ways. First, she emphasizes the parent’s participation on the team, then she talks about the team as if it is separate from the family. She probably meant what she said first, that the family is an integral part of the team. She slipped into her “us and them” language of referring to only the professionals as the members of the team, possibly out of habit or by simply not paying attention to her message. These may seem like subtle differences in language, but differences like these can paint a very different picture of early intervention for a family.
There is No TEAM without the Family
When you think about it, there really is no EI team without the family. Without the family, we are just a bunch of professionals who work in a similar field. Children and families are the reasons we come together as teams. I don’t actually think it is accurate to say that the family leads the team, but their interests, priorities, and concerns for their child, and supporting their efforts with their child, are what give the team its purpose. An EI team supports all members, with a particular focus on facilitating parent-child interactions that promote development. All team members – parents, service providers, and the service coordinator – work closely to collaborate and implement the IFSP. Sure, professionals on the team may interact without the family present, but it is highly likely that what they are discussing is relevant to supporting the parent and child. The team approach is what makes early intervention successful.
Take a moment now to think about how you describe the team to the family and other team members. Be mindful of your language so that you are reflecting what we believe in our field – that family members are equal partners on the EI team. Next time you catch yourself talking about “the team,” be sure that you say what you mean.
If you are a service coordinator like Elaine, how do you explain the activities of the “team” to families at the intake visit?
What words and phrases do you use to help families understand the team approach to early intervention?