Understanding the Role of the Family

Kimberly Hile, Ed.M. and Michaelene Ostrosky, Ph.D.

Creative Commons [Flickr, Roots of Empathy Baby Celebration, June 12, 2012]
Creative Commons [Flickr, Roots of Empathy Baby Celebration, June 12, 2012]
We are sure you have heard the saying, “a parent is his child’s first and best teacher.” For those of us working in the field of early intervention, it is a belief we take very seriously. Early intervention aims to strengthen a family’s ability to support their child’s growth and development.

Parent participation during early intervention sessions is essential. We cannot stress enough the role that parents play on the child’s intervention team. (see more about the importance of parent participation in Bruder (2010)[1]).

The Office of Special Education Programs of the US Department of Education (OSEP) outlines seven key principles for early intervention services [2][3] with the first two principles highlighting the role of the parent.

These principles state:

  1. Infants and toddlers learn best through everyday experiences and interactions with familiar people in familiar contexts, and
  2. All families, with the necessary supports and resources, can enhance their children’s learning and development.

The first principle addresses the need for all services to be implemented within the family’s daily routines. Young children benefit from repetition when learning new skills. Parents are in the position to ensure that their child has ample opportunities to practice new skills by embedding them throughout their typical day. The second principle supports the idea that parents are more than capable of supporting their child’s development. The primary role of the early intervention service provider is to work directly with the parent to ensure that they feel confident and competent at implementing strategies that will address the child’s individual needs.

For families in the military, early intervention service providers need to be aware of the unique needs of each family in order to find creative ways to include deployed parents into assessment, planning, and intervention; being flexible when scheduling visits; and preparing familys for transitions.

United States Department of Defense logo, a partner of the Military Families Learning Network
United States Department of Agriculture logo, a partner of the Military Families Learning Network