Recent Articles, Engaging Families, Assessment, IFSP Development, Practical Strategies, Service Coordination, Teamwork

Don’t Forget the Family’s Perspective

Think about the following perspectives during the Assessment for Service Planning and IFSP development process:

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Team Members Arrive

SC: I arrive to facilitate the assessment for service planning and IFSP development for Jacoby. I meet Franklin, occupational therapist, and Maria, developmental specialist. We all walk in and I introduce Marilyn and Kevin (Jacoby’s mother and father) to Franklin and Maria.

Family: I open the door and immediately feel intimidated and outnumbered as Tamira, our service coordinator, walks in with two other people. She introduces them, but I already forgot their name and discipline. I am not even sure what they do exactly.

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Assessment

SC: I begin to explain what to expect over the next couple of hours. I update the team and check in with the Marilyn and Kevin on any new updates or concerns. Franklin and Maria begin the assessment for service planning, engaging Marilyn and Kevin in questions and Jacoby in play. This is going to take a long time. Jacoby keeps running away. I have a lot of paperwork to get signed and we still need to develop the IFSP.

Family: Jacoby runs away the moment he sees everyone. I hope he cooperates throughout the visit. I am feeling anxious about what to expect. They are asking us a lot of questions. Maybe I should have been paying more attention to Jacoby because I do not know all the answers. I really wish Jacoby would sit down and play with them. He is getting fussy. I bet he wants a snack. I guess he will have to wait.

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IFSP Development

SC: I facilitate the IFSP development. When we begin to write outcomes, I begin the discussion by asking Marilyn and Kevin, “What would you like to see Jacoby doing?” 

Family: Jacoby is really becoming upset right now. They are the experts. Just tell me what to do.

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Remember the Family Perspective

Assessment for service planning and IFSP development are complex processes which require several tasks becompleted by the EI team (including the family). Juggling these tasks can lead all team members to feel some level of stress or anxiety. Parents may feel unsure about what to expect. They may also feel anxious about how to manage their child’s participation and care during the meeting. Marilyn and Kevin were hoping to find answers, support, and future guidance on how to help Jacoby. Tamira, Franklin, and Maria have set tasks to complete during this time and are hoping to complete everything in a timely manner. How can Tamira, Franklin, and Maria provide support to Marilyn and Kevin during this time? Here are some easy tips to support parents.

Be mindful. Before going in the home, take a couple deep breaths and reflect on what this visit means to the family. It can be easy to forget about the parents’ perspective. Remember, the words and actions within each family interaction can impact their perspective of early intervention. Remain aware of feelings that lose focus on the family such as thinking, “I need to hurry before my next visit.” Hurrying may make parents feel unimportant and unheard. Mindfulness allows professionals to be conscious of the caregiver’s feelings and needs.

Check-in periodically with families. Throughout the process, pay attention to the caregiver’s nonverbal cues. Check-in to see if they need a break or have any questions. Caregivers may need a moment to feed their child, change their child’s diaper, use the restroom, or simply step away to quietly process all of the information given. Caregivers may feel like they will interrupt the process. Let caregivers know it is okay to take a break if needed.

Explain. Explain. Explain. Explain what you are doing and why you are doing it. Try not to use acronyms or jargon that may be unfamiliar to the family. Read a caregiver’s nonverbal cues while you explain to see if you need to pause and check for understanding.

In the scenario above, Kevin and Marilyn are experiencing an array of emotions. They are looking to the early interventionists for guidance and understanding. Tamira, Franklin, and Maria can support the family by being mindful, checking in with them, and explaining the process to alleviate some of the family’s worries.

How do you stay focused and present during your interactions with families? What are some strategies you use to check-in with families?
What could Tamira, Franklin, and/or Maria do to ease Kevin and Marilyn’s worries throughout the visit?
What other tips would you add to support families?

Add your tips and strategies to the comments below!

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