Ask the Expert – Early Intervention: A Family Centered, Caregiver Training Approach
Often times, when a family has been told their child may have a developmental delay, there are many questions surrounding next steps. The options can be confusing and overwhelming at times. There are many great service models which can range from intense clinical therapy to a home visiting program such as early intervention, and these services should be as individualized as the needs of the child AND the family.
Early intervention provides a great place to start while navigating a world of professionals and clinics. Early intervention starts with an assessment to determine a child’s current level of development. Caregivers are then given the opportunity to meet with a service coordinator to express their concerns regarding development and talk about how their child is participating in daily routines such as meal time, play time, bath and bed time, and various social settings. Outcomes are created that focus on the caregivers concerns, which allows for the plan to be individualized for each child and family, therefore referred to as an Individualized Family Service Plan.
Once the plan is written, families will begin to receive services in the child’s natural environment. This could be the home, daycare, or community setting such as a local park or restaurant. Services are generally provided through early interventions team of professionals such as physical, occupational and speech therapists or special instructors. The model for early intervention is a caregiver training approach, so that the early intervention providers can equip the caregivers with ideas and suggestions for ways they can use every day routines as learning and teaching opportunities. This comes in many different ways, such as suggestions and ideas for improving communication skills, motor skills, feeding, socialization and play skills. This approach provides a family the opportunity to work on developmental activities during typical daily routines at a time that is convenient for them.
If you suspect that your child may possibly have or be at risk for a developmental delay, you can contact Hand In Hand’s early intervention program for a free assessment at (205) 944-3978. All early intervention services are provided at no cost to the family.
Thank you to Jessica Letson, United Ability Assistant Early Intervention Director, for contributing this article.