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Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 2, Lesson 3

Activity #3

Step 1
Read the following scenario and take note of communication barriers and teaming problems.


Baby smilingTom and Mandy have recently discovered that their 15-month-old son John has some serious developmental delays. Following first contacts, an Early Steps team was formed. The team members included the family, an ITDS (Ms. Carter), a speech/language pathologist, and a clinical psychologist. The team conducted an evaluation and an assessment in the family's home. It was time for the first IFSP meeting.

Tom and Mandy were still trying to come to terms with their son's delays. They had not had a lot of time to absorb the seriousness of John's problems. Ms. Carter informed Tom and Mandy that during the IFSP meeting, the team would discuss the family's goals and develop strategies for addressing their concerns. Still, both Tom and Mandy were unsure of what exactly to expect at the IFSP meeting.

The IFSP meeting was scheduled for 2:00 pm on Tuesday at the family's home. All of the team members were informed of the meeting, but only the family and Ms. Carter came. Last minute emergencies prevented the other team members from attending the meeting. Ms. Carter had arranged the meeting several weeks ago. She was irritated that her fellow team members were not there to help, and she decided to go ahead with the IFSP meeting in their absence.

Because the appointment had been scheduled during the first part of summer vacation, Tom and Mandy's other children were out of school and at home. During the IFSP meeting, Mandy was preoccupied with her other children and relied on Tom to answer many of the questions that Ms. Carter asked. Tom soon became flustered. He explained that since he was not home with John every day, he simply could not answer many of Ms. Carter's questions. He did not understand her questions and he wasn't really sure what the family's priorities were. He explained that John was only 15 months old and that he did not interact with other children very often. John seemed to enjoy being around his siblings, but did not necessarily join in with their play. He didn't think this was very unusual and saw no need to change things. Tom was confused and exasperated by Ms. Carter's questions. He felt that he was not providing the kind of information that she wanted.

Aware of Tom's frustration, Ms. Carter did her best to explain how important it was to understand the family's needs. She began to feel nervous and confused. She had never had a parent question her questions. She asked to speak with Mandy, requesting that Tom attend to the other children for a while. Ms. Carter started over with Mandy, but found that some of the information that Mandy provided contradicted that provided by her husband.

After over an hour of disjointed discussion, Ms. Carter completed an IFSP with the family. Tom and Mandy felt more confused and isolated than ever before. They didn't know anyone who had been through a similar situation and they didn't know where to turn for help. They were looking for answers that no one seemed to be able to give them. They needed to know whom they could ask for help, and whom they could contact for more information on their son's specific problems.

Step 2
What went wrong here? Re-read the scenario and write all of your observations on a piece of paper. When you think you have covered all of the important issues, read the suggested answers below.

Lesson 3 Highlights

Lesson 3 explored many facets of communication in early intervention teams. Basic verbal and non-verbal strategies for effective communication were presented, along with a description of behaviors that hinder the communication process. An overview of the research on communicating with caregivers was presented, followed by a discussion of the importance of culturally sensitive communication. Web resources for increasing cultural competence were offered. The lesson concluded with a description of collaborative consultation and a discussion of the complex communication skills required by this model. Transdisciplinary teams typically practice collaborative consultation. Early intervention professionals on such teams must possess a great deal of personal and professional maturity.


Beckman, P. J. (1996). Strategies for working with families of young children with disabilities. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., Inc.

Briggs, M. H. (1993). Team talk: Communication skills for early intervention teams. Journal of Childhood Communication Disorders, 15(1), 33-40.

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

Bruns, D. A. & Corso, R. M. (2001). Working with culturally & linguistically diverse families. Champaign, IL: ERIC Clearinghouse on elementary and early childhood education. http://ecap.crc.uiuc.edu/eecearchive/digests/2001/bruns01.pdf

DeMarle, D. J., & LeRoux, P. (2001). The life cycle and disability: Experiences of discontinuity in child and family development. Journal of Loss & Trauma, 6, 29-43.

Egan, G. (1986). The skilled helper: A systematic approach to effective helping. Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Fine, M. J. & Gardner, A. (1994). Collaborative consultation with families of children with special needs: Why bother? Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 5(4), 283-308.

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

Hartshorne, T. S. (2002).

Mistaking courage for denial: Family resilience after The birth of a child with severe disabilities. Journal of Individual Psychology, 58 (3), 263-278.

Hepworth, D. H. & Larsen, J. A. (1986). Direct social work practice: Theory and skills. Chicago, IL: Dorsey Press.

Hobbs, N. (1975). The future of children. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


  • Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice (CECP)
  • Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) Early Childhood Research Institute
  • International Listening Association
  • Listening to Others in Meetings


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