As a “seasoned” therapist with over 30 years experience working with families and young children you would think that I had it down to a science. Sadly, I tended to go about the business of practicing early intervention the same way every day – pack a bag of toys, drive to the child’s home, sit down in the middle of the living room and start playing. Sometimes I would invite a parent to watch or even (rarely) join in. I typically ended the session giving the parent some ‘homework’ for the following week. Did I get results using that approach? I believe so. Were they the optimal results for that child and family? Probably not.
We now know that using a family centered approach to early intervention results in optimal outcomes for both the child and parents. While this is not a new approach by a long stretch many of us have found changing our clinical habits less than intuitive. Barriers to shifting our care from the child to the family unit as a whole has many barriers including: ethics (“it is not in my scope of practice”); natural environment (“the home is dirty and there are bugs”, “there are too many distractions like the TV or siblings”); parental expectations (“mom wants me to fix their child”, “parents have unrealistic expectations”); materials (“there are no toys in the home”, “they expect me to bring in toys”); and parent involvement (“mom refuses to join my session”, “there is no follow through after I leave”).
What are some solutions? We can each attend continuing education offerings and workshops geared towards informing us on best practices, but I believe that is not enough. As a professional community we have to support each other, look to a mentor for guidance, and remain current with best practices. It is my hope that by actively participating in this blog site, receiving reminders via social media, and participating in 1:1 mentoring with a seasoned EI provider we will each find moments of success when a new approach to how we do our job goes well. In return clinical habits will gradually shift towards an approach which best serves families and young children.