Relationships are at the core of successful early intervention services

Research located in the scientific disciplines of early childhood intervention and psychology demonstrate the potential for change in children’s development when Early Intervention programmes promote the participation of an active child in meaningful ways that respect and values the family interactions and practices that they grow and develop in. In the UK the nature and structure of services run the risk of devaluing families’ contribution to children’s learning and development as well as children’s varying competencies and strengths. Services are not always integrated and sometimes contribute to family stressors rather than reducing them. I travelled to New Zealand to explore the world-leading Champion Centre where relationship-based EI services are provided for children aged birth to six who have at least two areas of developmental delay/disability. The programme is offered in a centre-based model of service, in partnership with parents, and in accordance with international best practice.

I found that observable physical and social processes and structures within the delivery of the model include a number of dimensions that can contribute to parents feeling empowered and having high aspirations for their children as well as children’s progress over time. This includes: respectful professional interactions and relationships with children and families, integrated professional working, effective and timely communication between professionals and families, pedagogy of listening, waiting and personalization, engaged families and actively participating children. Parents’ high aspirations for children reflected professional aspirations for children of inclusion for children in education and society as well as meaningful employment and achievement in life. Professional aspirations also extended to successful parent-child relationships. At the most profound level, there was the aspiration that the Champion Centre EI service could “change brains for parent and child.” (Champion Centre Director)

I will be presenting the findings at BCU internal research conferences and cluster events as well as at the International Society on Early Intervention Conference on Children’s Rights and Early Intervention in Stockholm, June 2016 and other international conferences. The findings will also inform undergraduate and post-graduate teaching within the University.