What is the purpose of early intervention?
Early Beginnings for Families with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children:
Myths and Facts of Early Intervention and Guidelines for Effective Services
Section I: What is the Purpose of Early Intervention?
Full paper in PDF format (25 pages, 311KB)
Families who have just learned that their child has a hearing loss typically have no prior experience or information about what this means for their child and family. Since more than 90 percent of parents with a child who is deaf or hard of hearing are themselves hearing, the news often comes as a complete surprise. Although parents react to the identification of their child's hearing loss in many different ways, they often need support as they adjust to this new and unexpected information. Parents want information about their child's hearing abilities, how to communicate clearly, and how they can enhance their child's development. Early intervention services provide families with support and information that promote the family's abilities to support their child's growth and development (Bodner-Johnson & Sass-Lehrer, 1999).
Soon after their infant or toddler's hearing loss has been identified, most families desire comprehensive information about hearing loss. They want to know the impact of their child's hearing loss on communication and language. They have questions about the educational opportunities available, how their child will learn, and how their child will get along with others. Families recognize the need for support as they adjust to this unexpected reality and often find that professionals and other parents of deaf and hard of hearing children are more understanding of their situation than their own family members (Meadow-Orlans, Mertens, Sass-Lehrer, & Scott-Olson, 1997).
Professionals providing early intervention services may be teachers of deaf and hard of hearing children, early intervention or early childhood specialists, audiologists, speech and language pathologists, parent educators, or sign language specialists. Regardless of their specific disciplinary background, effective early intervention specialists get to know families and develop relationships that restore the families' confidence and support them as they learn how to communicate with their child and feel competent in their abilities to be their child's best advocate.
Early intervention services may be provided through visits with the family in their home, an early intervention program center, or another community setting. During these sessions, families, with the guidance of professionals, determine the goals and services that are most appropriate for them. A range of services may be provided, such as emotional support to the family, information sharing, observations and feedback on how to adapt interactions, sign language lessons, listening and speech training, or collaboration activities with other professionals and agencies. Families benefit when they have opportunities to connect with other families with deaf and hard of hearing children and to get to know deaf and hard of hearing adults.
Quality intervention programs employ professionals who have training and experiences working with families and their infants and toddlers who are deaf or hard of hearing. Effective programs provide to families a range of services that are family-centered and culturally responsive and that promote partnerships based on positive relationships between professionals and parents. Early intervention services are most effective when they are designed to strengthen the families' resources (e.g., family, friends, and community supports) and resolve to provide the best opportunities for learning available for their children.