The term Early Intervention refers to services given to very young children with special needs, generally from birth until the child turns three. Early intervention helps families and children from birth to age 3 who have a developmental concern or who are at risk to make sure that these children grow to their greatest potential. Services vary by state, but may include:
- Educational services
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Infant Development Programs
- Speech therapy
- Family counseling
Over the years the focus of early intervention has evolved to become a family-centered approach. Parents now play a significant role in developing and implementing services for their children. Regardless of the service, direct family and/or caregiver participation in therapy services is crucial to overall success. You as the family or caregiver spend the most time with you child and really are your child’s primary “therapist”. Think of it this way, one hour of direct services with a therapist/week is only 4 -5 hours/month of therapy/practice for your child. This is not enough practice for your child to learn a new skill. It is crucial that parents know, understand, and practice therapy targets with their children throughout their every day in order to maximize treatment benefits.
Ways that parents can be involved in their child’s early intervention program may include…
1) Direct participation in planning therapy goals
2) Direct observation and participation in therapy services
3) Video record therapy sessions so that family members unable to attend therapy sessions can also be trained
4) Be proactive. Ask your therapist questions, request parent training, request handouts on developmental information and treatment methods.
5) Don’t be afraid to ask to actively participate in a therapy session.
6) Ask for suggestions on how to work on goals throughout your daily routines
7) Carryover the skills that you have learned during therapy throughout your day
8) Be specific about what you understand and what you do not understand. Ask for help when you need it.
9) Be proactive and research information about your child’s diagnosed delays and services available in your community.
10) Research and get in touch with your local parent support groups.
11) Ask for recommendations about appropriate toys, games, books, etc to help enhance your child’s development
12) Be willing and open to suggestions about changes in your home environment if suggested by your early intervention team.
13) Speak with other families in the Early Start Program.
Brandi Quinsay, M.A., CCC-SLP