Staff training and expertise
Our teams of highly qualified infant and child development consultants are skilled in providing an effective home-based intervention service. They benefit from continuous staff development opportunities, both locally and provincially, through the support of OAICD and through base funding by MCYS, when that is provided. Each staff member has training in one or more of the following disciplines: child development; developmental services; early childhood education; education; infant mental health; nursing; occupational therapy; physiotherapy; psychology; social work; or other related disciplines.
The breadth of training backgrounds underscores the degree to which our infant and child development consultants bring a unique set of skills and abilities to work with high-risk infants and children and their families. Their expertise covers in-depth knowledge of typical and atypical child development, acute observation skills, the ability to assess developmental and environmental strengths and needs, an awareness of issues related to family dynamics and child-rearing. Their expertise also includes training with respect to supporting those who experience grief and loss following the diagnosis/identification of a child as having life-long special needs, or in some cases, coping with the needs of a child with a terminal illness or shortened life expectancy.
Family-centred service encourages positive parent-child interactions and promotes the infant’s or child’s optimal developmental progress. The relationship of secure attachment to developmental accomplishment is promoted by the active engagement of parents in recognizing their child’s cues and their response in ways that foster a sense of security that allows for appropriate developmentally based learning through play (Bromwich, 1997).
What are the outcomes of Early Intervention?
What happens to children in the first years of life will play a large role in the path they will follow as adults. Recent research in the neurosciences provides powerful evidence for the influence of the early years on children’s later competence and coping skills. These influences will affect learning, behaviour, and health throughout their life span.
Infant and Child Development Services are effective in promoting positive outcomes for the children and families who access these services during the children’s early years. These outcomes have both short- and long-term effects. Research from Finland has shown that preterm children receiving early intervention similar to that offered through the Ontario infant and child development services have significantly higher intelligence scores at 4 years of age, fewer behavioral issues and better sleep patterns than preterm children who did not receive these services (Sajaniemi et al, 2001). In Ontario, research from two Regional Neonatal Follow-up programs has shown that 70% of children identified in the first year of life with early motor delays demonstrate normal motor patterns by the time they are 2 years of age following intervention through Infant and Child Development Services.
By the very nature of their home-based intervention, Infant and Child Development Services are able to reach “hard-to-serve” families who are unable to access more traditional intervention services in the community, such as occupational therapy, physiotherapy or speech-language services offered in treatment centers, hospitals or centrally-based preschool speech language programs, either because the families cannot afford to take time off work for therapy appointments, or they do not have access to transportation to reach these services. The added benefit of the home-based intervention model is that it allows the parent to capitalize on learning opportunities for the child throughout the day: developmentally appropriate activities are integrated seamlessly into the child’s daily life experiences.
Not only do Infant and Child Development Services provide developmentally appropriate interventions and support the families in their application of developmentally beneficial activities, they also play a pivotal role in identifying the strengths and weaknesses of these children as they transition into school through the provision of timely, in-depth screening and/or diagnostic assessments. These assessments provide diagnoses and alert, as well as educate families and school personnel regarding the adverse effects of specific weaknesses on the child’s subsequent learning. They also provide recommendations regarding activities parents can implement and services parents can access to minimize adverse outcomes, as well as advocate for appropriate supports within the school system itself.