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IFSP Tutorial - Evaluation and Assessment

Planning with Families for Evaluation and Assessment:

Essential Content of Planning with Families

Page 7 of 13

Strategies to help families feel comfortable discussing their concerns, priorities, and resources

The following suggestions may provide a foundation for establishing a rapport with families by demonstrating respect for their traditions and culture:

  • Elicit family information in a personal interview, supplemented by written surveys (which can be completed at a later date, if desired).
  • Ask family members how they prefer to be addressed, e.g. using a formal salutation such as Mr. or Mrs., or informal first names.
  • Find out what language a family is most comfortable conversing in. This includes preferences for sign language for family members who are hearing impaired. Try to match families with interim service coordinators who speak their language, and consider when and how to use interpreters or solicit family members to interpret.
  • Avoid professional jargon, and define terms when they cannot be avoided. Be particularly aware of abbreviations and common words familiar to providers but not to family members. Examples include Part C, Part B, MITP, transition, IFSP, IEP, and outcomes. Do not expect families to remember these terms even after an explanation; provide a written list or pamphlet that discusses these terms.
  • Describe how family information will be used to guide services/supports and who will have access to such information.
  • Understand that eliciting family information is a process that will unfold as a relationship develops between early intervention service providers and family members.
  • Acknowledge that family members have different perspectives to share, and create an opportunity to solicit their input. If some family members are silent, ask, "Would you like to add anything to what we have been talking about?"
  • If key family members are absent during a planning discussion, consider the following strategies:
    • Ask the family members present what activities the other(s) might say are important for a child to participate in
    • Leave copies of self-report surveys for other family members to look over
    • Suggest that future visits could be scheduled at more convenient times, and be willing to converse by phone with family members who cannot change schedules to participate.
  • Practice active listening by assuming a relaxed posture, and pace questions and prompts. Learn to be comfortable with silences and lulls in conversation. Give family members an opportunity to ask questions and reflect before answering questions. Try to sit in a position that enables all family members present to be part of the conversation.
  • Answer family questions promptly, or identify who can. Follow a parent's lead, and be willing to adjust the discussion as appropriate.
  • Summarize key points at the end of each visit, particularly next steps to be taken by whom (e.g., "I'll look up more information for you about... and you'll ask your doctor for a copy of Jani's immunizations ").


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