No two EI families are exactly alike. The daily activities that families participate in and the places they spend time vary. The Illinois Early Intervention program supports families in ways that are flexible, individualized, and tailored to the family’s preference. Early intervention staff and providers focus on partnering with families to work together to help infants and toddlers learn and develop. The routines and activities common in one family may be different than those in another family. Young children increase their knowledge and skills best when new activities and strategies are a part of that child’s regular routines and daily life.
The early intervention team approach revolves around helping families to use strategies that will help infants and toddlers develop their skills during everyday activities in their natural environments. Natural environments are home and community settings in which children and families with and without disabilities regularly participate. These spaces might look different for different families and different children. One child may spend most weekdays outside the home at a local child care center, while another child might have daily visits to grandma’s house. These places are the child’s natural environment. And early intervention services can fit right into these routines and spaces.
Many things influence the daily routines of infants and toddlers. Daily routines are a part of family life. Family life includes interactions with various family members, shared activities, and shared values and culture. Differences in family life are expected because there are no two families exactly alike. Some differences might include the types of first foods given to young children, whether children are encouraged to feed themselves, their family’s sleeping arrangements, the language used to communicate, and whether a child is encouraged to try to move about on the floor or whether they are carried for longer periods of time.
Cultural differences may influence child care and work arrangements. Some working families will choose to enroll their child in a child care center or home while others are more comfortable with care from a relative or friend. Some cultural influences may be more subtle, such as differences in how caregivers respond to children’s feelings. For example, some caregivers will allow children to fuss when upset and others will rock, bounce, or carry upset children to calm them.
High-quality EI services are provided to all families. Each family’s culture is reflected uniquely in their everyday life. The early intervention program empowers families as their child’s first teacher and learns from families how they embrace their cultural beliefs and practices to offer services that are meaningful.
This sharing begins during the initial screening and evaluation process in which the family describes their everyday routines and talks about their child’s challenges and strengths and continues as families begin to participate in the EI program when their child is deemed eligible.
This rich exchange of information will help the EI team plan interventions and strategies that fit into a family’s lifestyle and help the child learn to develop and grow to his or her fullest potential.
Originally written in collaboration with the Illinois EI Clearinghouse Staff for the Early Intervention Clearinghouse Summer 2017 Newsletter