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Children's Medical Services - Special services for children with special needs
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Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 2, Lesson 2

Who is on the team?

Most of you are probably already familiar with the types of professionals that comprise early intervention teams. In addition to the caregiver, members of the team could include such members as a nurse, a psychologist, an occupational therapist, a physical therapist, a speech/language pathologist, a service coordinator or an ITDS, in assorted combinations.

It is important to remember that all team members serve two basic functions:

  1. To provide direct services, and
  2. To serve as a collaborator (Thomas, Correa & Morsink, 2001).

Direct services include "hands-on" work with the family and/or the child. Collaboration is an example of an indirect service that involves sharing expert knowledge with team members and consulting with team members during planning, implementation and evaluation of services. Collaboration and consultation are particularly important functions of team members in the Early Steps system.

Below is a brief summary of the main functions of individuals on early intervention teams:

Caregivers: Caregivers (usually but not always, parents or family members) are the most important people on the early intervention team. They are the constant force in the child's life and they possess expert knowledge about the child, his/her behaviors and abilities. The caregiver's needs, priorities and preferences must be taken into consideration during planning, implementation and evaluation of services.

Service Coordinator: Performs service coordination and administrative functions that support the family in all stages of the Early Steps process. Gathers important background information about the family during first contacts; coordinates evaluation and assessment appointments; plays important role in the development of a family-centered IFSP; helps identify needed resources, conducts home visits and follow-up meetings with the family.

Infant Toddler Developmental Specialist (ITDS): Consults with the early intervention team on a regular basis in order to assist with the delivery of services in natural settings. The ITDS frequently has an academic degree in early childhood education, early childhood special education or a related human services field. He/she may also function as the primary provider on the Early Steps team. In that role, the ITDS maintains regular contact with the team and serves as a 'coach' to caregivers. The ITDS works with the family in the most convenient, natural setting (e.g., library, daycare center, park, home).

Nurse: Provides information about basic medical and nutritional needs, physical development, and use of medical equipment. Nurses are very important resources for families with medically fragile, medically complex, and premature infants.

Allied Health Professionals: Physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy are collectively called the 'allied health professions.' Physical and occupational therapists are concerned with the development of motor skills. Physical therapists are particularly concerned with the large muscle groups and gross motor activity (e.g., holding head up, sitting, walking, jumping). Occupational therapists address the small muscle groups and fine motor skills (e.g., grasping, midline play, picking up and manipulating objects). Many occupational therapists also address oral-motor problems and issues. Speech therapists provide expertise on the development of expressive and receptive language skills. They may also address articulation concerns and oral-motor problems.

Psychologist: Psychologists on early intervention teams may be clinical, developmental, or school psychologists. They are trained in the administration and interpretation of formal assessment instruments, such as IQ tests. They are often asked to assist with the assessment of cognitive, social or emotional functioning. They are able to diagnose emotional and behavioral problems such as Reactive Attachment Disorder, Autistic Disorder, and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Psychologists are also able to provide individual or family therapy for specific needs (e.g., bereavement, family problems, behavioral problems).

Other professions: Several other professions may be represented on the early intervention team. Examples include social workers, nutritionists, behavior specialists, vision specialists and audiologists. As you come into contact with people in professions that are less familiar to you, take the time to ask them about their training and expertise. Tell them about your background and your role on the team. Your team will be more effective if you can openly share information and knowledge.

In sum, early intervention teams are comprised of a variety of professionals, each of whom possesses specific skills. Members of early intervention teams have very different educational backgrounds and very different perspectives; however, they are united by the common goal of supporting and enabling families of children with special needs.

 

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