The Power of Parents

A study on the impact of parents’ inclusion in their young children’s interventions found that parents can play a crucial role in their toddlers’ development. Prior research has looked into this subject, but this analysis was unique in that it centered on home-based practices and in giving parents a more active role in the interventions’ implementations.

Researchers studied nine groups of three which included a toddler (under age 3), a parent who stated that communication was his or her primary concern for the child and an interventionist. The children in the study had diverse developmental issues, which included developmental delays, down syndrome and autism spectrum disorder. Throughout the study, all activities, assessments and interventions took place at home or in familiar settings, like the local playground or market.

Routines and Interventions

At the start of the study, the interventionists spent a significant amount of time assessing the toddlers in these familiar locations to establish a baseline from which to measure progress. When choosing where to implement interventions into these children’s routines, the interventionists asked the parents to select places based on their child's "typical activities, preferences and priorities." Each family then identified at least three different routines for each of the intervention.

When the interventionists began to instruct parents on how to practice the strategies, they were sure to include bigger picture context, or “rationale” for the chosen intervention, so that the parents would take what they were learning beyond just the chosen routines. 

After the initial assessment and the intervention-instruction periods were completed, the study concluded with a “maintenance” phase where the parents and children were recorded four to twelve weeks after the close of the sessions to determine how well they were upholding what they had learned. The interventionists observed each parent’s implementation of the learned strategies and each child’s performance. 

The Power of Parents 

Researchers found that the toddlers’ improvements were aligned to the strength of their parents’ implementations of the intervention strategies. These results are congruent with prior studies on parent involvement. Several of the toddler participants experienced increased communication coinciding with the trend in their parent's ability to implement the strategies. Similarly the toddler who showed the most erratic progress had a parent who displayed a similarly erratic use of the intervention strategies. These results strongly support collaboration between parents and interventionists in working towards young children’s developmental goals.

Such joint efforts are even more worthwhile because the changes are lasting. Based on monitoring during the maintenance phase, this study found that the parents continued to implement the strategies in daily practices even beyond the study period.

The researchers attribute the success in part to the choice and ownership that parents were given throughout the process. More specifically, since the parents were the ones who chose the routines in which to use the intervention strategies, daily practice routines were upheld.

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 To read the full article, visit the Journal of Early Education