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Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 5, Lesson 1

Characteristics of Families of Young Children with Disabilities

What is a family?

In our society today, the makeup of family membership deviates from the more traditional concept of a father, a mother and one or more children. For the purpose of this lesson, we will define family in the broadest terms. It includes traditional families together with blended families; single parent families; families with a single parent and a significant other; extended families (grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins); families with the grandparent in a parental role; same-sex parent families; and families of adopted and foster children. This definition includes blood relatives as well as caregivers who may or may not be legal guardians.

It is important to understand that with the variations in family makeup, that only those individuals who have legal custody of the child have the legal right to sign documents and receive confidential information from the child's record file. Make sure that you know who this person or these persons are from the very beginning of your relationship with the family.

family having a partyEarly intervention professionals need to be aware of the characteristics of each family and understand the family's support system in order to work collaboratively with them. It is also important to be aware of the characteristics of and stressors on families that may affect their involvement. Family members must also be viewed within the context of the larger family unit. What affects one family member will affect all family members. A family is a complex social system in which no member can be viewed in isolation.


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