5 Opportunities to Promote Family Participation in AEPS-3Published
What do the most successful assessment and intervention outcomes have in common? One standout feature is the participation of parents and other primary caregivers, such as grandparents and foster parents.
Family input and participation in the process of assessment, goal development, and intervention is essential. AEPS developer Jennifer Grisham, Ed.D., says it best: “We say that the family is the child’s first teacher, but we often don’t intentionally involve families in decisions we make about their children when it comes to assessments and intervention. Families do know their children best, and have a right to provide their perceptions of their child’s development, articulate the child’s likes and dislikes, and express the concerns about their child’s development.”
How can you best ensure family involvement in assessment and intervention? AEPS-3 equips you with five critical opportunities for engaging a child’s family members in the process: Introductory Meeting, Report Completion, Plan Development, Intervention, and Ongoing Evaluation.
Opportunity 1: Introductory Meeting
This starting point will be where you explain procedures, philosophies, goals, and services to the family. The setting should be both comfortable and convenient so the family will be most willing and able to participate. Establishing open, honest communication is golden. Some families will come ready to get started, while others will need more time and information to thoughtfully consider their decisions. Avoid overwhelming the family with too much information at one time, but be prepared to support them with additional materials, such as printed takeaways, as needed. (AEPS-3 family handouts in English and Spanish can be downloaded from our Resource Hub.) Be sure to offer family members ample opportunity to voice their concerns, and enable them to feel confident and empowered in their role as decision makers.
Opportunity 2: Report Completion
Families complete two separate forms: the AEPS-3 Family Report, which gathers information regarding daily routines and the child’s participation in family activities, and the AEPS-3 Family Assessment of Child Skills. “In my experience, families respond very well to completing the Family Report,” says Lynne Corley, who uses AEPS in the Early Childhood Identification & Services program of Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia. “What a teacher may see during a 30-minute visit at the community preschool may not represent the whole picture of the child’s skills. So we use the Family Report form in conjunction with our own data/observations, to get a more complete picture of areas of need and strength.”
The questions on the Family Report are flexible and should be used as a guide; families may answer all questions or select only the ones they find relevant to their situation. Establishing family-ranked priorities is extremely helpful in designing meaningful goals and objectives, with outcomes that will be deemed most successful by the family. (Download completed samples of the AEPS-3 Family Report and the AEPS-3 Family Assessment of Child Skills.)
Opportunity 3: Goal/Outcome Development
After assessment data is collected, the entire team—professionals and family members—meets to review results and establish goals. Information from the assessment and family reports can be used during the development of the IFSP/IEP and intervention plans that will best fit the child’s characteristics and are compatible with family activities. The finalized IFSP/IEP documents serve as the framework for successful intervention. Keep in mind that the process of getting them just right often requires more than one meeting, as you work with families to prioritize goals and outcomes.
Opportunity 4: Teaching/Intervention
All the information gathered in steps 1–3 culminates in the implementation of teaching and intervention. Collaboration with family members will help you select activities and establish routines that will offer the child opportunities to develop targeted skills and meet their goals. Family involvement in the intervention makes this whole process more natural and effective. Carrying out teaching and intervention is “where the rubber meets the road” as far as putting your collaborative efforts to work, but it is by no means the end of that road.
Opportunity 5: Progress Monitoring
As with the initial assessment, planning, and intervention processes, family members are a critical part of monitoring a child’s ongoing development. Many programs use the Child Progress Record to help parents gain a visual record of data on their child’s accomplishments, current targets, and future goals. The Child Progress Record parallels the AEPS-3 Test and is sensitive to families whose children may not necessarily be tested at chronological age level. The record can be updated quarterly, or in conjunction with re-administration of the AEPS-3 Test.
AEPS user Mary Ann Sanfilippo, Speech Supervisor in Early Childhood Services at the Developmental Disabilities Institute, in Huntington, NY, says that parents in her program “are supplied with updated AEPS assessment information on a quarterly basis. The feedback from parents has been positive in that they are able to see progress reported, and the graphs available through AEPSi are very helpful.”
Encouraging families to take an active role in assessment and intervention leads to better outcomes. “If families are aware of how their child is progressing developmentally, they learn about development and acquire appropriate expectations of what young children should learn,” says Jennifer Grisham. “Also, by sharing the child’s progress, you increase the likelihood that families will support the child’s development at home.” Mary Ann Sanfilippo says that her program encourages parents to participate in their child’s education in multiple ways, “by attending team meetings, participating in the classroom and therapy sessions, ongoing communication through a notebook, and attending parent trainings in homes and at school.”
The AEPS system makes it easy to involve families every step of the way. To maximize success for children, make partnerships with families a top priority for your early childhood program.