Written by Julie Higginbotham, Senior Case Coordinator, Mecklenburg County CDSA
We are really making our way through the list of interesting topics for our Table Talk Wednesday events, and this month’s landed on how things look when children in our program are in daycare settings during the day. Nicole Cyphert, MS, OTR/L and Director of Integration Station, and Diane Bishop, Sr. Case Coordinator with the CDSA, both did a great job of opening up the floor to talk about where this starts – with a conversation with the parents. This is especially meaningful because we write our outcomes with families based on their routines, and sometimes, those routines either aren’t happening or aren’t concerns in the child’s daycare setting. How should that conversation start, and where could it end up? There were some interesting thoughts among the group….
- Talk about why we’re here. We always need to be framing up early intervention as a coaching, routines-based support, not as a means to bring in therapy to help a child meet milestones. We recognize parents as the experts regarding their children and how important it is to take advantage of natural learning opportunities, so if things are moving toward the childcare setting, there should be discussion around priorities in outcomes that address specific needs there or that could potentially be generalized there. We want to be flexible to meet needs, but we don’t want to jump to supports in the childcare center just because it is most convenient for delivery of services, especially when the outcomes are specific to home routines that don’t correlate at daycare.
- What are the parents doing now, and what can they do to increase carryover at daycare? One big piece of our work is to help increase confidence and competence in parents and caregivers. Perhaps there are some things that the teachers in the childcare center could be doing to increase a child’s abilities that can help make routines at home run more smoothly. Does that mean we should be at the daycare for all of our visits? Not always – helping parents advocate with the teachers and director can not only give the daycare more insight to things that are important to the family, but it also gives the parents a voice and helps them be an active part of their child’s day and development at daycare. Directors certainly have a vested interest in supporting the children there, and they can provide another layer of support for the teachers in the classrooms.
- Timing is everything. There are often providers who have some flexibility in their schedules that allow them to meet with families earlier in the morning or later in the day in their homes. Some families can meet at the center for drop-off or pick-up, and visits can incorporate both the parents and childcare teachers together. Lunch could be a better time for some who can step out and meet with you at the daycare for at least part of your visit. This might be a good time to bring in the service coordinator and other team members to get more information and to help facilitate the process, especially if plans don’t work out for one reason or another.
- Communication is also key. Just as we want to be communicating with each other and parents, we need to be including the childcare center in that loop so we are all on the same page. The childcare center staff should be on the team as well because we would certainly want their input as we are building the IFSP and gathering information about priorities and concerns. Nicole brought up a fantastic point, though – calling, texting, and emailing are often at the top of the list for communication, and sometimes folks will use a communication log in a notebook at the childcare center with the intent of sharing current information. That’s a good thought, but where does confidentiality come into play here? The Infant-Toddler Program falls under Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) Regulations, which is a similar concept to HIPPA. The idea here is that, while we want to be doing our part to make sure that information gets where it needs to go, protecting a family’s privacy absolutely has to come first. In other words, someone needs to know where that log is and keep it safe, rather than finding it in someone else’s cubby, and all non-face-to-face contact should be without identifying information to protect privacy. Need more details? Here’s a FERPA FAQ that organizes the information by topics. If you’re unsure of how to handle confidentiality issues, reach out to supervisors for more support to be sure that we’re doing this the right way.
We’ve consistently covered tips for building a rapport with families, and the group had some great ideas of ways to foster that relationship when we’re working with childcare centers too.
- Be respectful. Just like going into a family’s home, we need to go into classrooms with respect for their rules, property, and insights, and we need to identify them as being the experts in the classroom.
- Talk to the center before you go. We prepare families for our visits, and we want to do the same for the childcare center. Not only does it allow for them to be thinking about things we might bring to the table, but it also helps them see that we’re genuinely there to be supportive. They may even go as far as to set aside special space for us to go in and work with the child – be appreciative before explaining that seeing real activities in the classroom would be even more helpful.
- Add them to the team. Again, we want to be purposeful in engaging with the teachers and/or director so we can be helpful and supportive. The team can even explore options for having IFSP reviews at the center to help facilitate their participation without asking them to go somewhere else.
- Be sure to tell teachers that we aren’t there to give them more work to do. It is easy for teachers and directors to feel as though we are there because they aren’t doing something right. We want to go in with the same positive perspective that we have with families. Be purposeful in pointing out the good things they are already doing that support the child’s development in classroom routines, and be sure to engage in joint planning and coaching interactions to help the teachers look at ways that they can support the children in their class. One person in the group even talked about a teacher having an “a-ha” moment that not only reached the child, but also had positive impacts on other kids in the classroom.
- Think about other potential resources when needed. Sometimes, we come into the picture when issues have escalated, and maybe the child is about to be removed from the center. Unfortunately, this does happen – there are times when we could be coordinating with other resources that are more appropriate links to support the family and center. Locally, we have great programs like Polliwog and Child Care Resources Inc. that provide more intensive supports to the center when needed. Check your local resources to see what you might have available in your area.
So, did you notice that much of this information is similar to how we support families in their homes? There are, of course, added pieces to communication and teaming to help bridge the gaps between home and childcare, but the bottom line is the same: Even if we are supporting teachers in childcare centers for some of our services, the philosophy remains with supporting families in natural, routines-based ways. How does this go for you? When you are on a team and supports carry over into a childcare center, do you feel like a rock star, or do you feel like there are challenges to this process? Let us know – we can have a respectful, helpful conversation here to support each other!
If you’re in the area, come join us for our next Table Talk Wednesday event on Wednesday, April 16, 2014 – we’ll be talking about how It’s Puzzling When There’s a Question of Autism. We really want to see new faces (and old faces!) and get our attendance back up – there is so much to be said for the information that comes from these open conversations. Thinking about participating? Invite a colleague and bring your lunch for a chance to talk with others in the field doing the same great work to support children and families!