The audience of this book is intended to be early intervention agencies serving children age birth-3, service providers and early childhood childcare professionals. It describes various aspects of the early intervention process (known as 1st Steps here in KY but by various other names by state) and how to make them more parent/family friendly. The family friendly philosophy is based in the belief that:
-Families are capable of providing valuable information
-Families are “experts” on their child
-Families are competent to make decisions. (page 17)
Why this book?
I chose this book for my book study because of the work I (and many others) do at the diagnostic center. I am always looking for ways to improve my assessment procedures. Clinicians in preschool will also find this information relevant. At the diagnostic center and occasionally in preschool, speech language pathologists are faced with challenging assessment situations where the involvement of the parent is highly valuable and necessary to arrive at the proper diagnostic decisions.
Scenario 1: A very young child (often 2 years 10 months- 3 years 10 months) is being evaluated at the diagnostic center in the area of language. This child has no previous school or daycare experience and parents completed the interventions at home. The child is “shy” and refuses to speak to the SLP. The SLP employs all of her tricks (extended warm up time, enticing play options, etc) but the child will not participate in any of the standardized or non-standardized assessment tasks.
Scenario 2: A young child’s performance during the assessment completed by JCPS does not match the performance reported in an outside provider’s recent report. The parent requested screening and assessment because of that outside provider’s report.
Scenario 3: A young child is evaluated and receives scores well within the average range on standardized testing. The SLP is left wondering….why are we here?
I have faced all 3 of these scenarios while completing assessments at the diagnostic center. According to this book, the answer to all of these issues is the parent interview AND parent involvement. The parent interview is a valuable tool when is it is comprehensive and understood by the parent. However, it should not stand alone. The book also suggests that parents should be actively involved in the assessment (non-standardized portions). It specifically recommends observing the child doing “something he or she enjoys with someone he or she trusts. An examiner can learn a great deal by observing what a child and parent do on their own. The examiner can also coach parents to try a certain game or interaction in order to give the child a chance to show a specific ability.” (page 7)
Other tips and reminders:
Gather more information about factors that can influence our perceptions: student’s health, temperament, experiences outside the home, daily family life, family’s values, beliefs, traditions, etc
Do not ask “what is your biggest concern” but rather “what would you like to see improve the most? or “What communication skills does he/she need the most?” Use responses when appropriate and possible in drafting the IEP.
Don’t be afraid to refer a family to one of the district’s social workers when there is a need for assistance outside of school time that impacts the students school performance such as housing, food, transportation, medical, mental health, substance abuse treatment, etc.
Things we do well that this book recommended:
* Gather medical and other provider information before the assessment.
* Use of an interpreter in the family’s native language (when available)
* Arena assessments where all involved disciplines are present. This reduces the number of duplicate questions a family answers and times they recount developmental history and concerns. It allows cross-discipline collaboration and collective decision making.
* Use of parent interview
* Use of more than one source of information or avoiding over-reliance on the standardized test due to the young age of the children we are evaluating.
Possible Areas of Growth:
o Translation of our written reports into the family’s native language.
o Make a family feel welcome at school (or whatever JCPS location they are visiting). This book often describes making centers family accessible. Parents are encouraged to visit the school and observe their child the classroom or during therapies. Libraries with parent information, references and net-working space are available and advertised to parents. What can we do to make families feel welcomed and a part of the school community?
o Do more parent education and conversation about the transition from 1st steps to school based services including differences in eligibility, purpose of service and differences in the documents. o https://www.pacer.org/parent/php/PHP-c59.pdf A PDF that outlines the differences in the IFSP and the IEP in narrative and chart form.
In summary, it is important to remember that many of our families at the diagnostic center and in our preschool classrooms are transitioning from 1st steps. The different models of service, the assessment process and the transition process can be intimidating and confusing. We are in an excellent position to help answer questions, offer resources and be a positive 1st impression of JCPS and school based services.