Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 5, Lesson 4
Team Meetings in Early Steps
Although there are many times when a team may come together, for the purposes of our discussion here, we will focus on teaming around the development of the Individualized Family Support Plan (IFSP). In Early Steps, this is where conversations take place and decisions about services are made. This occurs as a team decision-making process and while each member of the team may provide significant input into service decisions, the ultimate responsibility for determining appropriate services rests with the participants at the IFSP meeting as a whole. In Early Steps, the membership at the IFSP meeting can consist of some or all of the following, depending upon the needs of the child and the family:
- Infant Toddler Developmental Specialist
- Occupational Therapist
- Speech Language Pathologist
- Physical Therapist
- Service Coordinator
- Specialty Providers: SHINE Provider, Hearing Specialist, Vision Specialist, Behavior Analyst, Nutritionist, Psychologist, Clinical Social Worker, Orientation and Mobility Specialist, etc.
The Early Steps (Department of Health, 2005), discusses the important roles of team members in the section on "A Team Written IFSP":
...Decisions regarding specific services to be included in the IFSP are made through team collaboration and must take into consideration the integration of all areas of development. The level of direct involvement of providers will vary depending on the individualized needs of each child and family. The first consideration must be the family's priorities and their desired functional outcomes for their child and the needs of the family in relation to enhancing their child's development...Ultimately, teams must work collaboratively to develop a comprehensive plan of services that supports the child's ability to function in their natural environment (p. 18).
Purposes of Team Meetings and Participant Roles
Module 2 discusses teaming and collaboration in-depth. It might be a good idea to look over that module again to refresh your knowledge about teams as we begin to explore the development of an effective team meeting. To be an active participant in a team meeting, each member must understand the purpose of the meeting, be able to use group processes such as collaboration, decision by consensus, open communication, and be accountable and committed to the process. In addition, each member must understand his/her role and there must be mutual trust in and respect for all members. Flexibility and a sense of humor are also valuable assets. This may seem like a daunting task! Careful pre-planning before the meeting and sharing of pertinent information in a timely manner will help facilitate the process and assure success.
It is important to remember that team meetings are a part of the early intervention system. They are not single, unique events, but rather are important processes in ensuring that the right outcomes are attained. Team members must not only cooperate and share information, they must also actively seek solutions and share resources.
Planning and Conducting an Effective Team Meeting
The next sections of this lesson will illustrate some components of a team meeting for writing the initial IFSP. You will find answers to the following questions.
- What planning needs to occur to ensure a successful team meeting?
- How do we encourage active family participation in the process?
- What strategies can we use to enhance the success of the meeting?
While the purpose for IFSP meetings is straightforward (to make decisions about child and family outcomes and services), the process requires good planning to ensure appropriate results. It is important to consider some general components in order to make your meeting successful. You might want to ask yourself the following:
- What is the purpose of the meeting?
- Who should be involved?
- What are the roles and responsibilities of each team member at the meeting?
- When should it occur? And where?
- How much pre-meeting planning should occur?
- How does the meeting itself go? Do I need an agenda?
- What needs to occur for follow-up?
Planning With and Preparing Families for the Meeting
Since families are key participants in IFSP meetings, it is essential that they are prepared to share their concerns, priorities, and issues with the rest of the team at the meeting. They also need to understand their role and the responsibilities which accompany that role. They need to understand the process of building consensus and how to handle disagreements if they arise. How can you help them prepare?
Planning With and Preparing Your Professional Peers for the Meeting
While families are key participants in IFSP meetings, they are members on a team that is also comprised of early intervention professionals. Team decisions should be just that - not made solely by families or professionals, but rather together in collaborative partnership. According to the Early Steps Service Delivery and Policy and Guidance (2005), "While each participant in the IFSP meeting provides significant input regarding the provision of appropriate early intervention services, the ultimate responsibility for determining what services are appropriate for a particular infant or toddler, including the location and approach of such services, rests with the participants in the IFSP meeting" (pp. 15-16). It is therefore, essential that professionals be well prepared for team meetings and understand their roles and the responsibilities. They too need to understand the process of building consensus and how to handle disagreements if they arise.
Professionals attending an IFSP meeting should include persons who have evaluated or worked with the child and family directly. The team is composed of persons who have been the most involved with the child and family in the past six to twelve months; or, at the initial IFSP meeting, have just evaluated the child and family. Hopefully, it would not be a high number of people, and it would not include persons whom the family does not know.
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