Written by Julie Higginbotham, Senior Case Coordinator, Mecklenburg County CDSA
OK, there – I said it. We have officially entered 2015, and I’m sure you’ve been bombarded with emails about how to keep your resolutions this year. This is different, however, because this post isn’t just about seeing whether or not you can get the scale to move in one direction or the other (no comments on which way mine is headed), or making a radical change that might fall by the wayside after a few weeks. No, this is more about taking a moment to reevaluate your work with children and families and deciding which practices you want to adopt to do an even better job as an early interventionist in the long run. Because, after all, don’t we want to be keeping up with the evidence that leads us to better practices?
As I’m sitting here, thinking about the best ways to improve upon my work, a lot of the ideas seem to fall into the same concepts for keeping New Year’s resolutions. With that in mind, I thought I’d look at a few popular tips and tricks to keeping said resolutions to see how they can be tailored to improving our practices in early intervention.
- Get organized! Goodness knows, this one ranks up high for me! When we are more organized, we have to spend less time trying to chase ourselves around and are more available to be more intentional and purposeful in our work. This includes things like having the child’s IFSP with you when you go out for visits. The IFSP includes valuable information about the family’s priorities, routines, and child’s interests, and you should be really familiar with those. You can review the important goals the family has in place when you meet wtih them, or make sure that you have followed up on the things that you discussed with the family at your last visit. When we feel scattered, our work often reflects that as well.
- Eliminate roadblocks. I’m sorry, but can you hear that chocolate calling to me from my desk drawer?? It sounds loud from here….but I digress. When we think about going out on a limb to try something new in our work with families, there are often things that keep us from taking that first step to move forward. Perhaps you keep a list of resources on hand so you can immediately give it to a family when they have a need, rather than asking more reflective questions to see how they can build up those skills or gain information for themselves. Maybe you have a toy bag that is calling your name from the trunk (or worse, the front seat), but the family already has some wonderful, in-the-moment learning opportunities that keep coming up during your visits. Sometimes, we have to make the decision to take away the things that tempt us into falling into patterns that aren’t in line with the philosophy of supporting natural routines and families’ confidence and competence. It might be time to leave the resources list or toy bags behind, and go into visits with the intent of being involved with whatever greets you at the door. How often do we tell parents that a child’s behavior will sometimes get worse before it gets better, but that we’ll help give them some tools to move them along so they can see what they want to see in their routines? That leads me into the next one….
- Do your research. We don’t expect you to go cold turkey and go blindly forward – we want you to have something else in the toolbox to replace what you’ve been doing up until now. There are so many wonderful ways to get information about evidence-based early intervention practices, and fortunately, if you’re reading this blog, you’ve come to a one-stop-shop here at EI Excellence! We have this ongoing Blog to give you some functional tips and tricks that can help you in the day-to-day work, as well as plenty of Resources and Intervention Tools to back it all up. How often do you get sucked into Pinterest finding the next DIY fail (or is that just me?), or find something interesting on Facebook that takes you 10 more stories past where you started? Even YouTube and Twitter have some great information. (See what I did there? You’re welcome.) The more you seek out the evidence that shows that these concepts are truly what support children and families in the best way possible, the more comfortable you will be in making those purposeful and intentional shifts in your work.
- Reach out and let people know what you’re doing. Have you ever noticed that, especially during this time of year, everyone’s Facebook pages start showing how much weight they’ve lost? Maybe you’ve had someone reach out to you to be a walking buddy at work. When you let people know that you’re trying to make a change for the better, it helps to hold you more accountable and allows you to more freely seek out some guidance when you need it. Remember those wonderful people working with you to support each of your families….you know, the IFSP teams? They’re a great place to start because everyone’s goals should be the same. If there are folks who are further along in this journey, find out more about how they’re doing what they’re doing. If other folks are in the same boat as you, work together to see how you can provide even better supports to that family. You can even Contact Us and we’ll see how we can help, too!
- Just do it! OK, I kinda stole that one from Nike, but you get the picture. Make the choice, and take that first step. You all have amazing potential, and while that first step can be the scariest, it can make a world of difference. Don’t go into it with the intention of doing a total 180 – that’s where the New Year’s resolutions tend to fail. Just make the decision to change one piece of what you do each day, and when you feel more confident, add another piece. Soon enough, you’ll find that it gets easier and easier to put what you know into action.
So there you have it – not another New Year’s resolution blog, but rather a blog about how to make the most out of your knowledge and expertise so that it impacts your work with children and families in the long run. Don’t wait until some specific time to do it, take advantage of what you have going for you today. Today is not January first, the first of any other month of the year, or a Monday (and who on earth starts a diet or a dramatic change on a Monday anyway? That day is hard enough as it is!). Take advantage of the resources and supports that you have available to you in this moment to do something awesome!