Professional and Parent-Implemented Early Intervention Strategies
Early intervention refers to the services and support made available to children 0 to 3 years old who exhibit signs of a developmental delay and their families. There are a number of early intervention strategies that can be applied by parents and professionals alike to achieve the best possible outcome.
Early intervention services are offered free of cost in Pennsylvania. This allows affected children and their families to take full advantage of early intervention’s many benefits. Five of these benefits are:
- Children get the opportunity to interact with their peers and build their relationship skills.
- Children develop their communication skills and learn to better express their needs and frustrations.
- Parents are guided in the use of at-home intervention strategies.
- Parents gain a better understanding of their child’s specific needs.
- Parents are better able to help their child reach their highest level of functionality.
For more on the benefits of early intervention, read How Early Intervention Services Help Children With Developmental Delays.
Even with similar diagnoses, no two children are alike. This is why there is a range of early intervention approaches that can be tailored to meet each child’s specific needs. These are often carried out by specialists who are trained to work with children with developmental delays.
However, there is another, equally important factor that impacts the child’s progress – the input of their parents or guardians. In this month’s blog, we’ll outline early intervention strategies for parents as well as the many implemented by professionals.
7 early intervention strategies parents can use at home
1. Sitting in a chair
Children can be fidgety but for those with conditions like ADHD, sitting still for even a few seconds can be a major accomplishment.
Steps: Sit and invite your child to sit with you. Praise them when they do but do not insist that they stay. Over time, use interesting activities to engage your child as he or she sits with you for longer periods of time.
2. Look at me
Making and maintaining eye contact is often one of the skills that must be taught to children with autism. This activity gives them some practice in a fun and engaging way.
Steps: Hold an interesting object, such as a pinwheel, close to your face. Encourage your child to look at you. You can blow on the pinwheel as an incentive. When your child makes eye contact, praise them for looking at you.
3. Sorting by color
Making associations and sorting are skills we use every day. Help your child develop these skills with this activity.
Steps: Gather many familiar items, such as toy cars, balls, crayons, cups, and socks. Select one item and ask your child to find other items of the same color. You can do a few first to help them understand what you want them to do. Praise your child for each match they make.
4. Sorting familiar items
This sorting game uses picture boards of different rooms in a house and cards with pictures of familiar household items. It can be used as an aid to teaching life skills. You can make your own picture boards and cards or find a downloadable one here.
Steps: Ask your child to match each picture card to the room where it belongs. For instance, the toothpaste goes in the bathroom. Offer praise, high-fives, and other forms of encouragement as the game progresses.
5. Identify the function of common objects
This activity can be used to build vocabulary skills. It also helps the child to use context clues you give to identify the item you are talking about.
Steps: Show your child a card and read the instructions printed on it to them, for example, “Find the one that is red.” You can point at the words as you read to help your child identify the words. Praise your child for each correct selection. It is easy to make your own cards or find a downloadable set of cards here.
6. Guess the emotion
Identifying and understanding emotions is important for a child’s socio-emotional development. This game uses simple emoji-type pictures to help your child build these skills.
Steps: You can use a simple story plus your own acting skills to illustrate an emotion, such as sadness. Ask your child to find the card that matches the emotion and praise each correct guess. This is just one variation of the game. You can find a ton of other emotion sorting games as downloadables here.
7. Step-by-step skills
The steps in various life skills, such as brushing your teeth, or other common activities can be represented as steps on a set of cards. These can then be used to help your child with sorting and sequencing the events.
Steps: Jumble the cards for a single activity in front of your child. Discuss the activity or tell a simple story that includes its steps. Ask your child to arrange the cards in the correct order for completing the activity. Praise their efforts when they do. You can find a convenient Velcro set for this game here.
Early intervention strategies used by professionals
Speech and language therapy
Speech-language pathologists work with children, helping them to develop their language and communication skills. They assist children with both developing and refining expressive and receptive language. Aside from providing help with speech, they may introduce sign language and picture communication systems.
Speech-language pathologists take both cognitive and oropharyngeal factors into consideration. They may even work with children who have difficulty feeding and swallowing.
Gross motor skills affect a child’s balance and coordination. They also play a role in the strength of a child’s limbs. Physical therapists help children with sensorimotor delays to develop their gross motor skills and improve movement.
This kind of physical therapy deals with development of fine motor skills. The focus is often on helping children to better coordinate movement of small muscles of the fingers. Self-care skills, such as brushing teeth, getting dressed, and using utensils, are often targeted in this form of therapy.
Psychologists, therapists, and counselors work with children to try to resolve issues connected to behavior and learning. Mental health, forming relationships, and emotional intelligence are common areas of focus here. Children benefit from improved self-esteem as they learn how to manage their emotions and how to read the emotions of others.
Quite often, psychological services are extended to the child’s family, as well.
Many children with developmental delays and disabilities are also affected by poor nutrition. This may arise from difficulty coordinating the movements for chewing and swallowing. It can also stem from the inability to feed themselves or from sensitivity to tastes and textures of foods, as is sometimes seen in autism.
Nutritionists can determine whether a child is at risk of a nutrient deficiency. They may be able to suggest alternative foods or methods of preparation for parents to try with their child.
Hearing or vision services
Audiologists and vision specialists assess problems children have with their hearing and sight, respectively. Issues they deal with include hearing loss, lazy eye, and crossed eyes. Their recommendations can range from hearing devices to eye exercises, as well as the need for the child to receive further medical treatment or specialized intervention.
Social work services
Social workers help with building the parent-child relationship. They often have a wealth of knowledge about available resources to assist children with developmental delays and their families. Social workers share tips and strategies with parents on how to encourage attachment between themselves and their child.
Assistive technology (AT) fosters independence and feelings of self-confidence in a child with developmental delays. It also helps children to participate more in activities with their peers and not be left out of important fun and learning experiences. Examples of AT include:
- Communication devices and apps
- Power wheelchairs
- Foam wedges for support
- Specialized drinking cups and utensils
- Sip and puff devices
Early intervention services coordination with ECCM
There are many avenues of support available for children with developmental delays and their families. Making the right (and timely) connections to these early intervention strategies is key to how well a child with a disorder or disability progresses. This is our focus at ECCM.
We are here to help you find the services and support that best match the needs of your child.
Our early intervention services include developmental delay screening and assessing eligibility for early intervention services. We also offer ongoing monitoring of how your child is progressing. We pair you with a service coordinator to help you and your child connect with the intervention services and professionals you need.
Early intervention is a proven approach. It has a positive impact on the level of functionality children with developmental delays are able to achieve. Reach out to ECCM and let’s start working together for the sake of your child.