Twenty plus years ago I completed my Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Special Education (Birth -5) and began my career as an Early Intervention Specialist, now Developmental Specialist (DS). Prior to that time I supported families in the Mental Health System. Professionally, I have seen many trends and changes throughout the DD system. In 2010, the State of Ohio transitioned to Evidenced Based Early Intervention (EI) which is still the method being practiced today.
Evidenced Based EI is based on 7 Key Principles that focus on the specific needs of families who have infants and toddlers. This model identifies a Service Coordinator and Primary Service Provider (PSP) for each family that are supported by an entire core team. This team consists of Service Coordinators, Developmental Specialists and contracted therapists; Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Speech Therapy. When needed, the team is able to bring in other specialists to provide support to families and the teams. The team supports a family from the initial contact through Evaluation and Assessment, the Individualized Family Support Plan (IFSP) and through the transition and exit from EI. The experience I have had over the past two years implementing this model has provided me with the mental stimulation and professional growth I had been craving for years in the field of EI.
To truly understand what EI offers families, it easiest to share a story. This past October our team received a referral regarding a family who recently had spent 156 days in the NICU with their baby girl who was born at 25 weeks gestation. When the family was finally able to leave the hospital they arrived home exhausted, scared and overwhelmed. When we met this family they were not sure about EI services. The team members took the time to really get to know this family so they could decide how to proceed.
As a team, we spent time focusing on the relationship between the parent and the infant using the Newborn Behavioral Observation (NBO) as a starting point. Carefully observing how the infant responds and regulates herself, as well as observing responses to stimuli and positioning. This was a great way for the team to get to know this family and start building a relationship of trust. EI programming focuses on the goal that parents feel confident and competent. It was imperative for us to have a clear understanding of the child’s and family’s needs to empower them with the tools needed for success.
Change can be challenging but it can also be stimulating, insightful and enlightening. As we move forward through change we can learn things about ourselves, find better ways to work together and increase the quality of support we offer to the families we serve. When we listen carefully, families can lead us down the path that works best for them, evoking the feelings of confidence and competence for all. When it all comes together the parents can focus on just being parents. They can set their worries aside and enjoy daily life all while knowing there is a team of professionals who will listen and support their family and child’s needs as he or she grows.