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IFSP Tutorial - Developing and Implementing

Implementing the IFSP:

Essential Content for Implementing the IFSP

Page 11 of 16

Collaborative consultation

Collaborative consultation is an interactive process that enables teams of people with diverse expertise to identify and analyze issues and generate creative solutions to mutually defined problems. It is a voluntary, dynamic process between team members who coordinate their special knowledge and experience to work together towards a common goal. When families, other caregivers and early intervention share their unique perspectives via collaborative consultation, strategies are produced that are different from those that an individual team member could produce independently (Idol, Paolucci-Whitcomb & Nevin, 1987; ).

There are many styles of consultation, ranging from an expert model that places the consultant in the role of the decision maker to a collaborative model with shared responsibility for problem analysis and solution generation. Collaborative consultation, described as “Let’s meet as equals on this” is preferred by educators and families over expert consultation, illustrated as “You tell me what to do” (Dettmer, Dyck & Thurston, 1999).

  The vignette of Evan in the section on providing EI supports and services in group settings shows a speech-language pathologist providing collaborative consultation to a child care teacher.

Vignette of effective teaming

When early intervention providers coach, consult or act as a primary service provider, they offer indirect service to a child through their collaboration and support of key adults in a child’s life. They must always consider:

Are my suggestions and supports appropriate for the experience, knowledge and role of the adult(s) I am interacting with?

The following vignette illustrates how an early intervention provider in an Infants and Toddlers Program in Maryland provided collaborative consultation to a colleague and mother using reflective practice, a critical component of coaching. Note how Janice individualized her suggestions and interactions to support her colleague and the mother.

Janice, a speech-language pathologist, was asked for a consultation by her colleague, Mindy, and was invited on a home visit to 19 month old Imani and her mother, Bintu. Mindy wanted suggestions to help address Bintu’s frustration with encouraging Imani to communicate verbally, using recommendations from a university NICU/prematurity clinic. Bintu was extremely concerned because Imani rarely vocalized any sounds. In preparation for her consultation, Janice asked Mindy to talk with Bintu about:

• the activity settings that Bintu wanted Imani to participate in with family members and friends;
• times when Imani would make the most sounds;
• ways the family could get Imani to laugh; and
• times when Imani was trying to communicate but no one could understand her.

Janice asked Mindy to talk about these topics with Bintu because she wanted to broaden Mindy’s ideas about providing family supports in a way that would be meaningful for Bintu. Mindy had told Janice that she usually has the primary interaction with Imani while Bintu watches and dozes on the coach. (Bintu works nights so that the family always has one parent at home to care for Imani.) Janice did not take any materials with her since she wanted to use familiar toys to play and interact with Imani. She also wanted her consultation to focus on talking with Bintu, rather than providing a session for Imani. Following is Janice’s summary of her consultation with Mindy and Bintu.

We arrived at Imani’s home early in the morning and Mindy introduced me to Bintu. Because of her discussion with Mindy beforehand, Bintu was ready for our visit and had actually prepared a list of questions and situations she wanted to talk about. Bintu immediately expressed her concern regarding Imani’s negative reactions to the oral motor activities recommended by the NICU clinic, especially using an electric toothbrush. Imani would begin crying and wouldn’t let her mother use it. I was hesitant to start our conversation with a negative situation, but thought I could try to help Bintu analyze how to make it into a play time with Imani.

I consciously sat back and invited Bintu to talk about her observations instead of trying things out with Imani myself. I asked Bintu for ideas about how to introduce the electric toothbrush so that Imani could see it and touch it herself. We decided to teach her just how to turn it on and off. She liked this and was aware of the action, so I suggested that Bintu say “on” and wait for Imani to make a sound before turning it on for her. Imani could imitate her mother’s sound by producing “ah” and was delighted when the toothbrush turned on. Bintu was happy to see her daughter smile and anticipate the action. Their interaction with the toothbrush changed dramatically, and Imani increased her eye contact with her mother rather than turning away and closing her eyes. They even played with it in Imani’s mouth. Bintu, Mindy and I explored other ways to encourage Imani to laugh and use a few other words during daily routines and family interactions.

Afterward Janice’s visit, she and talked about her observations of their consultation. Inviting Mindy to reflect first on her observations before offering any feedback was an important step in supporting Mindy as an active learner. Mindy observed these positive interactions:

  • Bintu played an active role in several ways. Mindy talked with Bintu about what she really wanted to know to help Imani before Janice’s visit. Janice invited Bintu to show her what she was doing and what was/was not working before Janice made any suggestions. As a result, Bintu was invested in their discussion and did not appear tired, even after working all night.
  • Janice used a positive approach to emphasize Bintu’s effective strategies and asked “How about if we try this too?” rather than tell or show Bintu what was the “right” way to interact with Imani.
  • Imani actually changed her interactions and became more animated playing with her mother. There were immediate changes in her vocalizations as well.

Since their consultation, Mindy has shared with Janice that Bintu is continuing to use the suggestions they discussed, and has used them to introduce Imani to new things. Janice is convinced that really listening and validating another person’s ideas and actions is more effective than doing it myself with a child, hoping that a parent or colleague will catch on and repeat it.

Janice successfully implemented some aspects of coaching because she looked for an opportunity in her current practice to refine her interactions rather than change everything at one time. She was also aware of not taking over her colleague’s role when invited on the home visit with Mindy, and expanded Mindy’s perspectives by presenting positive alternatives to doing a “session” with Imani herself (e.g., suggesting topics for discussion with Bintu before the consultation; modeling how to engage a parent in reflection and validate their strategies; debriefing with Lois after the home visit, and inviting her observations about Bintu’s and Imani’s reactions before giving feedback).





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