Involvement in your child’s early intervention can feel like an overwhelming task. For many parents, it may be very appealing to step back and leave it to ‘the professionals.’ Parents might worry about doing the wrong thing. Or maybe they feel that their role should be that of the nurturer, and not that of a therapist or teacher.
We know that having a child with different needs comes with its own set of challenges. In addition to the usual running of a family, and caring and advocating for your child, intervention involvement can feel like an added unnecessary responsibility. In the early days progress might seem slow. Understandably, to a therapist who has worked with many children this is normal, but to a parent this can be discouraging. They can feel like their work is not making a difference, and they are failing at providing intervention. To avoid this, the easiest option is to leave this responsibility to the professionals.
What is the reason for lack of involvement?
According to one study “stress is the main reason for lack of parental involvement alongside a child who is enrolled in an early intervention program” (Bennett, 2012). Given the amount of responsibility a parent already has, this is understandable. Even though we know it can cause added stress, we still recommend it…why?
Why do professionals encourage parents to get involved?
There are many reasons why we want you to be involved in your child’s early intervention. Parent involvement isn’t something that should be considered a bonus, it is a necessary component of a child’s development. Research tells us that parent mediated intervention greatly improves children’s outcomes in early intervention programmes. A therapist will only have a certain amount of hours with your child, but you are with them for the majority of their time. You have endless amounts of naturally occurring opportunities throughout the day to teach your child necessary skills.
Research on the role of parental involvement in autism early intervention shows that in order to see the biggest gains, professionals, practitioners, and parents must work together as one unit. We can do this by offering parents strategies to teach their children during everyday activities and routines. This can “maximize their child’s learning rate and skill development” (Hailstone, 2014). This is important to recognise.
Parental involvement ensures that the behaviours learned transfer to the home environment and elsewhere (Dillenburger, Keenan, Doherty, Byrne, & Gallagher, 2010). This is a very important part to a child’s development.
A recently published study found that a brief parent training and coaching package was successful in teaching parents to use strategies to promote early social communication skills (Erturk, Hansen, Machalicek, & Kunze, 2020). Social Communication skills should be a priority in a child’s early intervention programme. These skills (e.g. gestures, facial expressions, imitation and joint attention) are important for developing social relationships.
What will parental involvement do for me?
Research shows that parent training helps parents increase their “understanding of the child, which often leads to improved parent/child relations”. Also, parent training empowers parents by increasing their confidence (Hailstone, 2014). Once parents learn the techniques and get into a groove, their involvement becomes a natural part of the day. Strategies are embedded into normal daily routines creating numerous learning opportunities each day, from their parents. This has huge benefits to the child, as their learning increases more rapidly, but is also very rewarding for the parents.
How can you get involved in your child’s intervention?
There are many options to help you support your child’s development. Your child may be under an early intervention team. If they are, ask them for support and guidance around what you can do at home with your child. If you feel you already have those strategies in place, don’t hesitate to ask for more. Alternatively, you can access private support from a service provider such as ourselves at Reach Children’s Services. We are happy to help you understand your child’s strengths and areas of weakness or gaps in skills, and provide you the tools to fill in those gaps.
We are currently finalising details of our Developmental Learning Group for children under the age of 5. The group will run for 4 weeks, and will guide parents to get involved in their child’s early development through fun, enjoyable activities and strategies. To register your interest in the group click here. If you would like more information on parent training, please contact us. Please send a message or you can book a free 30 minute consultation from our website.