It is important for early intervention (EI) professionals and families to partner with one another. When professionals and families partner with each other, children make greater progress. Such partnerships may occur in a variety of ways. For example, families may partner with professionals by learning the strategies professionals use with their children and then by using those strategies in the home. When families reinforce EI strategies, children are more likely to make progress. Conversely, professionals may partner with families by asking families about the strengths and preferences of their children. By using parent knowledge about their children, professionals can individualize strategies to best meet the child’s needs.

Family-professional partnerships are characterized by five principles: respect, equity, commitment, communication, and advocacy. Below, are some strategies for professionals and families to exemplify each principle.

PrincipleFamilyProfessional
RespectAcknowledge that the professional may have unique training about the needs (e.g., gross motor, fine motor, language) of your child.

For example, thank the professional for sharing their expertise by stating “We are so happy to have an occupational therapist on our EI team.”
Acknowledge that families are experts on their children.

For example, ask family members about their child‘s strengths, interests, and specific needs.
EquityWork as a team with the professionals; each of you have important roles to play in EI.

For example, develop individual relationships with each team member. Each of you play important roles in the EI process.
Work as a team with families. Families and professionals are equal partners in EI.

For example, tell parents, “We are looking forward to partnering with you in the EI process. The overarching purpose of EI is to support families in being equal partners.”
CommitmentDemonstrate to the professional that you are implementing the EI strategies in the home.

For example, tell an EI professional, “We have been using this EI strategy at home and have seen great progress.”
Demonstrate to the family that you are dedicated to working with the family and their child. Offer various ways to include the family in decision-making.

For example, ask families their opinion about EI strategies; use open- and close-ended questions to solicit their feedback.
CommunicationOffer consistent, honest, and frequent communication with the professional.

For example, reach out to EI professionals with both your concerns and celebrations about your child.
Offer consistent, honest, and frequent communication with the family. Offer various ways families can get in touch with you, as the professional.

For example, offer families multiple methods of communication, including e-mail, text, phone calls, and in-person visits.
AdvocacyVoice your concerns for your child. Remember that you have an important role in EI.

For example, speak up in meetings with EI professionals about your opinions. You are your child’s best advocate.
Encourage the family to voice their concerns for their child.

For example, remind families that they can call a meeting with the EI team at any time.
Originally written for the Illinois Early Intervention Clearinghouse Newsletter:  Winter 2020
How to Build Strong Family-Professional Partnerships