By Amy Dearing, MA CCC-SLP
Early Intervention supports are still going strong in Lancaster County! Instead of providing supports in homes or community settings, we have made the transition to doing so virtually, known as tele-intervention. Excentia Human Services’ Infant & Toddler Early Intervention program focuses on building the capacities of parents and caregivers to support their child’s development. Excentia’s Infant & Toddler staff have been extensively trained in this model and have been using it for several years. Through this model, we help parents and caregivers learn strategies that they can use in their everyday activities and routines to work towards their child’s individual goals. Sessions involve such practices as observing parent-child interactions, identifying strategies and ideas to embed in the family’s routines, allowing the parent to practice the strategy, and providing informative feedback. Tele-intervention allows for these same processes to occur just as they would face-to-face in the home.
As a speech therapist working in Excentia’s Early Childhood Services department, I was initially quite overwhelmed with the transition to tele-intervention. Now, six weeks in, I am feeling more comfortable with this method of service delivery. While I still have much to learn and am continually trying to improve my sessions, here are some lessons I’m learning from tele-intervention:
It’s okay to step back and slow down.
Because I am not physically present in the family’s home for sessions, I am naturally taking a “backseat” to being the agent of change. I realize that I am observing and listening more and talking less. This seemingly small change has the power to be quite beneficial. I find myself tuning in to details that serve as springboards for reflection with parents and generating new strategies to try. Being an astute observer is allowing me to more effectively tailor ideas and strategies to fit the unique activities, routines, and interactions of family members.
It’s improving my skills as an Early Intervention therapist.
Due to not being physically present in the family’s home, opportunities for direct instruction with the child are diminished. Thus, there is more reliance on coaching the parent/caregiver to learn and practice strategies, and this is the heart of what we do! This is what Early Interventionists have strived to do during in-home visits prior to COVID-19, but tele-intervention with this age group makes it a necessity. Instead of a parent-child-therapist triad, with tele-intervention the parent-child dyad takes center stage, and the therapist provides support to the dyad.
We have an incredible network of support available to us.
I was amazed at how quickly county and state officials moved to get tele-intervention up and running. Not only were informational and procedural guidelines established and disseminated, a vast network of supports appeared in the form of trainings (webinars, videos, articles) on tele-intervention, both for early interventionists and families. Co-workers and professional organizations stepped up and offered tremendous support as well. As a therapist jumping into a brand-new mode of service delivery, I was grateful for this and tried to soak up as much as I could. It reminded me that we’re all in this together. All this support is focused on the well-being of the families we serve.
The brain is amazing at adapting.
Six weeks ago, I struggled with my routine being turned upside-down. I could no longer do my job the way I had known how to and had to adapt to a whole new way of working. There was stress and high emotion. I fully recognize that this is not unique to me, as we are all dealing with these struggles, and it is not my intention to minimize anyone else’s situation. However, I have been reminded that our brains are amazing at adapting and we should not underestimate the potential of the brain. This is one of the reasons I love working in Early Intervention: the early years are such a rapid period of brain growth, and we as Early Interventionists can help families make a great impact on their child’s development. Setting the stage for success early on can make a huge difference down the road!
If you have a concern regarding your child’s development, you don’t have to wait to get started with Early Intervention. We continue to welcome new families! Don’t be daunted by the idea of tele-intervention. We offer flexibility in providing services and will work with you to figure out what works best for your situation. For a free eligibility evaluation for your child (ages birth to three years old) in Lancaster County, call 717-735-1547.