Hello! I am a former primary special ed teacher, recently credentialed in developmental therapy. I am currently reviewing IFSPs for three clients I will begin seeing soon. One child has an older brother with “severe behavioral issues.” The service coordinator (and maybe the mom) want me to schedule therapy when the brother is in preschool. I think this is a good way to begin, so I can get to know the family. However, the mom has 2 kids. She has to figure out how to handle both of them all the time. Eventually I think I should visit when the brother is home. I welcome opinions and suggestions. Thank you!

This is a fantastic question so thanks for bringing it up! I agree with you that the most effective intervention will be provided in a way that helps the mother manage both children because her real life involves both of them. If you aren’t sure who made the suggestion to schedule the visit when the sibling isn’t home, I’d suggest that you talk with the mother before the first visit and ask her. Make sure she’s aware that you would be happy to visit when the brother is home. Some families might not think that’s how intervention is “done,” that the sibling might interrupt “your” time with the eligible child. You can help her understand that you are there to coach and support her, not just to work with her child. You might tell her that you’d like to see how the children interact and play. You could also tell her what you wrote here – that you understand that real life involves both children so you’d be happy to help her find ways to support her younger child’s development during their regular activities that include everyone. Follow the mother’s lead and see what she says. If she DOES prefer that you come while the sibling is at school, then start there. Get to know her and the child, build rapport, and suggest a visit when the brother is home later. She might want to focus on her younger child with fewer distractions at first. As you get to know each other, you can bring the sibling into the conversation and find out her thoughts on including him. If and when she’s comfortable, you can shift your schedule and visit when he’s home. You could even do alternating visits – one visit with the brother, one visit without him – if you have that flexibility in your schedule. I love it that you are open to making the brother a part of the intervention visits. You are absolutely right – he is a part of the real life of the family and his interactions matter. Sometimes following the family’s lead and easing your way into their bigger picture takes a little time. Other times, what the service coordinator suggests and what the family wants can be two different things so it’s a great idea to get clarification from both. Keep us posted on how this turns out so that we can learn from your experience!

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