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IFSP Tutorial - Developing and Implementing

Implementing the IFSP:

Essential Content for Implementing the IFSP

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Collaborating with adult learners

Adult learners (family members and early intervention providers) are self-directed problem solvers who learn best when they can relate new information to past experience (Donovan, Brandsford, & Pellegrino,1999; Knowles, 1996; Brookfield, 1993). Such transfer of learning occurs when an adult gathers new information, formally through instruction or reading, or informally, through experience, and integrates the new information with prior knowledge. This process is an active one, with early intervention providers supporting family members and colleagues to think about when and how to acquire and use new knowledge and actions.

Principles of Adult Learning

The following principles of adult learning influence how partnerships among early intervention providers and family members can be established and sustained. The principles are the same whether early intervention providers partner with family members, child care providers or colleagues (Hanft, Rush & Shelden, 2004).

Motivation: adult learners must feel comfortable and have the desire to engage in (or be coached to think about) a relationship with another person that is focused on helping a child/family participate in desired activities. Motivation is highly individualized and depends on each learner’s situation and what he or she is interested in learning.

Carly, a teenage mom, was struggling with caring for her son, Nick, and keeping up with her high school friends. She resented taking the time to talk with Samantha, their early intervention provider, until “Sam” started bringing two cans of soda and began each visit asking Carly about what she did during the week for herself before guiding the conversation to parenting issues. Carly's Story


Respectful learning environment: the physical and emotional climate for learning provides powerful supports (and challenges) for adult learners to establish supportive relationships and share ideas and skills.


Scott, an early intervention provider,noticed that Mybinh was much more at ease talking with him when her mother was also present. Recognizing that Mybinh was uncomfortable talking to an unrelated man in her home, Scott asked her if there was any other place she would like to meet while her mother returned to Vietnam for a visit. Mybinh eagerly suggested her sister’s house, and over the next month, she and Scott focused on how to prompt her daughter’s communication during play with her cousins, aunt and uncle. Scott's Story


Past and current experience: adult learners experience and knowledge base provides the critical foundation for merging new info and experience. Early intervention providers must work within each adult’s experience base and relate specific information to what family members and colleagues already know.

Sasha realized that using professional jargon when talking to parents and child care providers was not helpful for “getting on the same page.” She made sure to use simple terms when she visited Kelley, a child care provider who took care of the twins Sasha was following. However, it was several months before Sasha realized that Kelley, who had worked as a medical technologist, knew all the medical jargon about the twins’ genetic diagnosis and symptoms. Kelley felt Sasha was disregarding her knowledge when Sasha used simple terms during their discussions. Sasha's Story

Achieving self-direction and active involvement:
adult learners have unique perspectives regarding what they want to learn and how fast they can integrate new information and practices to change their current behavior and thinking.

Tamara felt like she was not connecting with Mrs. Jacobs about how to encourage Cory to express his needs. Mrs. Jacobs hardly ever asked questions, and seemed content to sit on the sofa and watch her play with Cory. Mrs. Jacobs said Cory was doing more talking when they cooked together and went shopping, but when Tamara was around Cory was pretty silent. Soon after, their service coordinator called Tamara with great excitement about Cory’s progress, and made a special point of saying that Mrs. Jacob told her all about trying Tamara’s “hints and tricks” in between her visits. Tamara realized that Mrs. Jacob was more comfortable watching her before trying some different approaches with Cory at her own pace. Tamara also realized that she needed to spend more time asking Mrs. Jacob about what Cory did and said in between her visits than focusing on getting Cory to talk while she was with him. Tamara's Story

Critical, reflective thinking: adult learners must be given an opportunity to think about their efforts to change their actions and interactions with children as they try out suggestions. Early intervention providers should prompt another adult’s reflection by asking what, when, who and how questions. Then listen and observe to understand another person’s perspective before offering still more suggestions.

Lorenza, Macario’s mother, wanted him to sit quietly in the shopping cart during their frequent trips to the grocery store to buy food for the eight members of their family. Janelle listened to Lorenza describe her shopping trips with Macario and offered to join them so she could understand what was going on. With each suggestion, she asked Lorenza, “How would this work for you…?” Lorenza's Story

Learning styles/coping strategies: adult learners have individualized strategies for processing information, meeting challenges and accomplishing a task. Table 3.1 identifies visual, auditory and kinesthetic strategies for assisting another adult to acquire and reflect about new information and experiences.

Visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning strategies for adult learners (Hanft, Rush & Shelden, 2004).

Table 3.1:

Visual learning: Seeing

Auditory learning: Hearing

Kinesthetic learning: Doing

Caregiver observes
EI provider

Caregiver summarizes feedback from EI provider

Caregiver keeps journal of actions and reflections

Caregiver observes others

Caregiver narrates actions watching a video

Caregiver practices new actions/approach

Caregiver watches video

Caregiver listens to audiotape

Caregiver demonstrates actions to others

Caregiver reads an article; looks at a photo or illustration

Caregiver talks with peer about his/her experiences

Caregiver joins support group or visits peer


In this chart, the term “caregiver” refers to all adult learners- family members, child care providers and early intervention providers.







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