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Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 2, Lesson 1

Activity #1

When working on an early intervention team, it is important to maintain a clear understanding of your role. McWilliam (2004) emphasizes the support functions of early intervention professionals in his Early Intervention in Natural Environments (EINE) model. He raises a number of issues that are relevant to teaming and the provision of informational, material and emotional supports to families.

Please read Early Intervention in Natural Environments: A Five Component Model by Robin McWilliam. This article is available in the Resource Bank.

After reading and studying this article, you should be able to:

  1. Conceptualize early intervention professionals as providers of support
  2. Describe different types of support (informational, material and emotional)
  3. Give examples of each type of support
  4. Consider the importance of teaming in the provision of informational, material and emotional supports
  5. Understand the importance of relationship building during First Contacts (intake)
  6. Discuss the advantages of routines-based interviews
  7. Discuss the Primary Service Provider (PSP) approach

Activity #2

In Early Intervention in Natural Environments: A Five Component Model (McWilliam, 2004) describes the use of the ecomap as a relationship-building tool that can be particularly effective during first contacts (intake). Since teaming begins at first contacts, the development of an ecomap can be a positive and helpful strategy. It allows the family an opportunity to share information, visualize the family network, and become acquainted with one or more fellow team members. It is a good way to encourage the active involvement and participation of family members.

An ecomap is a graphical illustration of a family and its connections. One design might look like the following description. The names of the members of the immediate family are drawn in the center circle of the map. The names of each close contact (for example, a neighbor, a grandparent, a good friend) are placed in separate circles above the larger family circle. The names of each important agency or community contact (doctors, therapists, community supports) are placed in separate circles below the center.

The end result is a large circle in the center of the map (with the names of the immediate family members), a number of smaller circles above it and a number of smaller circles below it. Lines then are drawn from each of the upper and lower circles to the center circle.

Heavy lines are used to indicate strong, supportive relationships. Medium lines are used to indicate moderately strong relationships. Faint lines are used to indicate weak relationships. Broken lines are used to indicate problematic relationships.

An example of an ecomap is presented in the McWilliam (2004) article.

Construct an ecomap of your family.

When your ecomap is finished, think about the following questions:

  1. What was it like to produce an ecomap of your family? Was it enjoyable? Boring? Uncomfortable? Did anything about this process surprise you?
  2. Would you be comfortable doing this exercise during first contacts with a family? Why or why not?
  3. Under what circumstances might it be inappropriate to do an exercise like this with a family?
  4. Do you think that developing an ecomap during first contacts might help professionals team with families? Why or why not?

Activity #3

Read Chapter 5, Recommended Practices in Interdisciplinary Models, in DEC Recommended Practices in Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education. Pay particular attention to the four theoretical creeds which summarize the practices.

Do you agree with the recommendation for trandisciplinary practices? What are some reasons why this model is recommended?

Activity #4
The Goose Story

Step 1
"The Goose Story" (author unknown) appears on numerous websites related to team functioning. Some of you may already be familiar with the story. It is a nice metaphor for teamwork in general. Take a minute now to read this short story.

The Goose Story
Author Unknown

When you see geese flying along in "V" formation, you might consider what science has discovered as to why they fly that way:

As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in "V" formation, the whole flock adds at least 71 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own.

People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going more quickly and easily because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone, and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird in front.

If we have as much sense as a goose, we will stay in formation with those people who are headed the same way we are.

When the leading goose gets tired, it rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point.

It is sensible to take turns doing demanding jobs, whether with people or with geese flying south.

Geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

What messages do we give when we honk from behind?

Finally ... and this is important ... when a goose gets sick or is wounded by gunshot, and falls out of formation, two other geese fall out with that goose and follow it down to lend help and protection. They stay with the fallen goose until it is able to fly or until it dies, and only then do they launch out on their own, or with another formation to catch up with their group.

If we have the sense of a goose, we will stand by each other like that.

Step 2
Using the following outline as a guide, consider how the Goose Story applies to 1) teams in general, 2) transdisciplinary teams, and 3) teams as systems. As you go through this exercise, write down any additional thoughts you have.

  1. Teams in general:
    1. the power of team work
    2. the importance of support and encouragement
    3. doing your share
    4. helping your fellow team members
  2. Transdisciplinary teams in particular:
    1. all members (including caregivers) are equally important
    2. more progress is made by sharing resources than by 'going it alone'
    3. the 'leader' (primary service provider) is the person who is most involved as the facilitator for the "flock" at a particular time.
    4. team members may play different roles at different times
  3. The team (or flock) as a system
    1. the whole formation is greater than the sum of the parts
    2. the whole cannot be defined or described by the individual members
    3. changes in one part of the system (a goose falls out of formation) affect the system as a whole (other birds fly down to assist)
    4. there is a tendency toward homeostasis (the birds always seek to rejoin the flock)

Lesson 1 Highlights

This lesson presented an overview of teaming in Florida's Early Steps system. Various definitions of 'teams' were offered and the importance of teaming to children, families and practitioners was emphasized. The basic tenets of systems theory were described and early intervention teams were conceptualized as dynamic, interdependent, complex systems.

This lesson presented examples of teaming within all of the major stages of Florida's Early Steps system. Distinctions were made between multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary teams. Discussions of teaming emphasized a strengths-based, family-centered approach. Collaboration with family members and fellow team members was also emphasized.

McWilliam (2004) conceptualizes early intervention professionals in terms of their numerous support functions. Participants were given the task of reading and studying the main points of this professional article. Participants were encouraged to consider the use of the Ecomap as a relationship-building tool during first contacts. Lastly, The Goose Story was presented as a metaphor for teaming and systemic process.


Andrews, M. A. & Andrews, J. R. (1993). Family-centered techniques: Integrating enablement into the IFSP process. Journal of Childhood Communication Disorders, 15 (1) 41-46.

Briggs, M. H. (1997). Building early intervention teams: Working together for children and families. Gaithersberg, MD: Aspen Publishers, Inc.

Dunst, C. J., Trivette, C. M., & Deal, A. G. (1988). Enabling and empowering families: Principles and guidelines for practice. Cambridge, MA: Brookline Books.

Florida Department of Health (2004). Early steps: Florida's early intervention system for infants and toddlers and their families. Service delivery policy and guidance.

Katzenbach, J. R. & Smith, D. K. (1999). The wisdom of teams: Creating the high Performance organization. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

McWilliam, R. A. & Scott, S. (2001). A support approach to early intervention: A three-part framework. Infants and Young Children, 13(4), 55-66.

McWilliam, R. A. (2004). Early Intervention in Natural Environments: A Five-Component Model. Unpublished manuscript.

Pfeiffer, S. I. (1980). The school-based interprofessional team: Recurring problems and some possible solutions. Journal of School Psychology, 18, 388-394.

Pilkington, K.O. & Malinowski, M. (2002). The natural environment, II: Uncovering deeper responsibilities within relationship-based services. Infants and Young Children, 15(2), 78-84.

Stepans, M. B., Thompson, C. L., & Buchanan, M. L. (2002). The role of the nurse on a transdisciplinary early intervention team. Public Health Nursing, 19(4), 238-245.

Thomas, C. C., Correa, V. I., & Morsink, C. V. (2001). Interactive teaming: Enhancing programs for students with special needs (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc.

Von Bertalanffy, L. (1968). General systems theory (Rev. ed.). New York: Braziller.


  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
  • IFSP web
    This website compares multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches in terms of team philosophy, the role of the family, lines of communication, staff development, assessment processes, IFSP development, and IFSP implementation.
  • This website presents advantages and disadvantages of multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches.


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