If you are like many working parents these days, you need to send your child to day care as many as 5 days per week. Having your little one in a child care center can be worrisome and stressful. Will he be ok without me? Did she eat her lunch today? Is he making friends? Does she like her caregivers? Do the caregivers like her? What if he has trouble with separation anxiety? These are just a few of the questions that go through our minds daily, when dropping our children off at day care. When we factor in that our child needs early intervention services and these services will be delivered in the day care setting when we are not present, we may even feel a new type of anxiety. TEIS therapists see children in home and center-based child care settings and our job is to build relationships with your child’s caregivers, so that your child can continue to thrive and learn new skills in child care that will carry over to your home. How do we do this?
Our job as therapists is to partner with you and your child’s day care staff members in order to identify ways in which your child can learn and practice new skills. We typically begin by contacting you first, before we ever set foot in your child’s day care center. Upon our first meeting (be it face to face or by phone) your therapist will be asking you to let them know what your concerns and goals are for your child. Your therapist will also ask what is the best way to communicate with you about your child’s therapy sessions. It can be by phone, text, written notes in notebook form (a copy of a session note will be left for you each week), photos or perhaps even a once a month therapy session at your home.
When a TEIS therapist visits your child’s day care provider for the first time, we make a point of introducing ourselves to the center director and the child care staff. This way, we can decide as a team (parent, caregivers & therapist) what might be the best time to visit to maximize your child’s learning, observe the child’s classroom & learn about his child care routines.
Most importantly, we like to make parents and caregivers aware that we use a coaching model, and we are not there to “therapize” your child. We will work with the child and her caregivers within the daily routines of the child care center and yes, even your child’s peers can join in! What is “coaching” you ask? Traditionally we were used to hearing that word in reference to athletics, but the coaching model in Early Intervention is a help-giving practice which supports caregivers in using their existing abilities and developing new skills. Coaching also builds the capacity of family members to promote the child’s learning and development. This includes being with the people the child wants and needs to be with and doing what the child likes and needs to do (Shelden & Rush, 2001). In other words, when we see your child in day care, we will not be pulling him out of his classroom into a separate room by himself in order to “do therapy”.
TEIS therapists will be working from your child’s IFSP that was developed with you, your independent assessment team and your service coordinator. This includes your child’s goals and strategies that she is working towards. We will help your child’s caregivers to imbed her goals into her daily child care routines, and most of these routines will then carry over at home. What does that mean? For example: You would like Amanda to be able to “Express her wants and needs by using a sign, gesture or word”. How can this happen at day care and how can your child’s caregivers encourage this important skill?
- Upon arrival at child care Amanda will be encouraged to sign/say “Good Morning” to her teachers and friends
- At circle time Amanda will be given a visual choice of two song cards and point or sign to make her choice
- At snack time Amanda will be given a choice of two foods and encouraged to point/sign/or say the food she wants
- During outside playtime Amanda will sign/say “please” to receive her turn on the swing or slide
Get the idea? And all these skills carry over to arriving home, mealtimes, playtime in the backyard, etc. At child care the goal is for your TEIS therapist to guide your child’s caregivers so that they feel comfortable with implementing your child’s IFSP goals & strategies. Your TEIS therapist will assume a more supportive role and your child’s caregiver (as you do at home) will take the lead. We will observe, model, allow practice, make changes if needed and come up with a joint plan that will allow your child to best enhance his skills in his child care setting.
TEIS therapists aim to keep an open line of communication with both you and the child care staff. Every week we will informally observe and assess how things are going and ask the caregivers their thoughts on how things are going. We will revise our plan whenever necessary. Your input and the input of your child’s caregivers is of utmost importance. We encourage everyone’s honesty and feedback so we can all work together as a team to make your child’s learning experience in child care a success!
Article written from a presentation by Betsy Gamza, M.Ed. on Building Relationships with Caregivers Within the Childcare Setting August 26, 2015 and the website http://www.coachinginearlychildhood.org