Academic journal article The Journal of Special Education and Rehabilitation

Families' First in Early Childhood Intervention. a Theoretical Approach towards Parent's Involvement and Increase of Efficiency of the Early Childhood Intervention

Academic journal article The Journal of Special Education and Rehabilitation

Families' First in Early Childhood Intervention. a Theoretical Approach towards Parent's Involvement and Increase of Efficiency of the Early Childhood Intervention

Article excerpt

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Manfred PRETIS

Medical School Hamburg,

Germany

Recived: 11.10.2011

Accepted: 25.10.2011

Review article

Corresponding Address:

Prof. Dr. Manfred PRETIS

Medical School Hamburg, Germany

Social Innovative Network, Austria

Lerchengasse 4c, 8054 Graz, Austria

E-mail: office@sinn-evaluation.at

E-mail: Manfred.pretis@medicalschool-hamburg.de

Abstract

Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) for vulnerable children between the age of 0-3 and 6 can be seen as well established preventive service in Europe. Even though recent epidemiologic data indicate higher rates of vulnerability during childhood and adolescence, traditionally up to 6% of the children are eligible for the ECI treatment. Definitions describing the ECI include from stable or ad hoc trans-disciplinary teams helping the child, to specific professional profiles. There is a scientific consensus regarding the effects of the ECI upon the child's development and the family dynamics. The ECI itself is responsible for more stable impact on the socio-emotional development of the child and the parent-child relationship. Specific focus in the research is given to the role of the parents as primary caregivers. Based on the importance of enhancing the interactions between the parents and the children, this paper discusses the strategies that help increase the efficiency of the ECI trough parental involvement. Special attention is dedicated to the mutual understanding, transparency and the use of common language such as the ICF.

Key words: Early Childhood Intervention, parental involvement, efficiency

Background

The demographic data both in Europe (1) and in the other countries, e.g. in Australia (2), describe general increase in the bio-psychosocial vulnerability among children and adolescents. Nearly 20 percent of the children are identified as "in a need" of services related to support or therapy. Converted into numbers the findings mean that within the 0-3 year age group in EU-27, up to 18.000.000 children are in a need of some kind of support (medical, social or educational). Fortunately, not all of these children will require complex interdisciplinary interventions. However, it can be estimated that up to 6% of the children are at a risk to become disabled or show symptoms of established disabilities (3).

Since 1970 the Early Childhood Intervention programs (ECI) are especially designed to prevent further development of disabilities among these vulnerable groups and most of the EU-27 countries provide ECI services in terms of early detection, support and intervention for children at risk (4).

The term ECI itself might be confusing: In some countries (Austria, Switzerland) the ECI is understood as a specific service providing support for the disabled, the ones at risk or the vulnerable children (aged between 0 to 3 and 6). In this context, the early childhood intervention is seen as a "trade mark" with a professional profile and a specific legal framework in the provision of children and families entitled to obtain these services (5-6). Besides the sufficient coverage of ECI services, it still remains open the question of whether the services manage to satisfy the needs of the parents. It might be hypothesised that parental involvement represents a main factor related to efficiency of services. However, the implementation of family centred practice might be under question, especially related to new vulnerable target groups.

Methodology

This paper is based on a literature synthesis related to the parents' involvement in the ECI programmes and the indicators for their efficiency. The issues such as the definition and organisation of services (including costeffectiveness and conceptual position of the parents) are also discussed.

Results

In most EU countries the term early childhood intervention refers to a general understanding of any kind of support for children and parents in their early years, including early detection, early diagnosis and early support (7). …

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