How do early intervention services support parents of infants and toddlers with disabilities?
Angela McGuire, Project Director, Early Childhood Intervention, Mental Health and Inclusion
Angela McGuire: Early intervention services benefit the parents of infants and toddlers with disabilities so that they have the knowledge and skills they need to contribute to the overall wellbeing and success of their children across the lifespan. Specifically, the knowledge about… Parents of children with disabilities gain knowledge about child development in general and their child’s development specifically.
What early interventionists first do is assist families to identify and articulate their concerns, priorities, and resources for supporting their child’s development. So, for instance, when a family first enters early intervention, they might say things like, “I want my child to be happy and have friends,” and that’s kind of ambiguous. So, early interventionists can break those kind of big nebulous goals down into more actionable, measurable goals. And then they assist the parents to participate in planning and anticipate what’s gonna happen next so that they can move the child towards achieving those measurable goals.
The other thing that they help parents to identify is, you know, when are things not going right. What if things aren’t going as you’d hoped? What if you need more services, or what if you need something different? How do you ask for that? And the final area that early intervention benefits families in is building relationships with other families for camaraderie and mentorship.
So, very few people anticipate and plan for having a child with a disability, but almost immediately parents of children with disabilities are being asked to make a lot of decisions. So, being connected with other parents of children with similar conditions or simply other parents of kids with disabilities in general helps parents know that they aren’t the first, and they aren’t alone, and that they don’t have to reinvent the wheel at every new path or bump in the pathway.
So, the services that build the capacity of the adults contribute to the overall wellbeing and success of the child with disabilities. They allow the parents to implement specific developmental support to be applied throughout the child’s day and across environments. And that helps amplify both the speed and the impact of the support on the child’s developmental progression. And they prepare the parent to support their child’s learning and to continue to participate in educational planning and to advocate for services later on.