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Children's Medical Services - Special services for children with special needs
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Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 5, Lesson 1

Families as Experts about Their Children

In order to work effectively with families, professionals who work in Early Steps must appreciate and value the knowledge families have of their children with disabilities. Parents have knowledge and understandings about their children that are unique to their family and can add a new dimension to the professional's perspectives. By respecting and building on this knowledge, professionals can move a step further in developing collaborative relationships with families that help assure positive outcomes for children. Families can be viewed in the context of advisors to professionals because of their special understanding of their child. The following are some of the assumptions we need to have in order to foster family/professional partnerships:

  1. Families are essential allies working with us toward the goal of maximizing their children's potential.
  2. Families are the experts with regard to their child. They have important information and perspectives professionals can use to help children succeed.
  3. All of us want what is best for the child. Understanding family perspectives will help us reach common goals.
  4. There is a common ground from which we can work with families if we seek to understand and respect their perspectives. Judgmental behavior and bias interfere with this process.

Throughout this module you will be asked to refer to a document entitled "Our Journey with Families: Service Delivery in Natural Environments in Rural Areas". This was developed in New Mexico and is a series of vignettes about the developing relationship between a family in early intervention and the professionals with whom they work. It will give you a glimpse of a family from a diverse culture living in a rural area. You may find some of the strategies used by the professionals helpful if you work in rural areas and in your encounters with families from cultures other than your own.

Access and read pages 1 - 6 of the Resource Bank document, Our Journey with Families: Service Delivery in Natural Environments in Rural Areas

Reflect on how the developmental specialist interacted with Isabel. Did she honor Isabel as an expert on her child?


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