Planning with Families for Evaluation and Assessment:
Essential Content of Planning with Families
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families feel comfortable discussing their concerns, priorities,
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
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.
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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