Importance of a Natural Environment
As the Program Director of the Early Intervention Program at HopeSparks Family Services in Tacoma, I am frequently asked why we spend time and money providing services in a child’s home, rather than having families bring children to a clinic setting. One reason is that it is the law, but more importantly, providing services at home or community settings where the child lives, learns, and plays, strengthens the capacity of the family in supporting their child’s development. By incorporating therapeutic and educational activities into the family’s daily routine (mealtime, bath time, play, story time), we are able to support that child and parent in the moment, to reflect on what is working and what is not working within the family’s social and cultural network. Parents often describe this experience as empowering, providing them the knowledge that they can carry out strategies when the therapists and educators are not available.
As a Speech-Language Pathologist, I have worked in clinical, medical, classroom, and home settings. When working with children birth to three-years-old, no matter the setting, I invite families to sit on the floor with their child and teach through play. When we are in the child’s home, I can use materials available to that child and parent all the time. I am aware of challenges that may exist and I am able to work through those challenges with the parent in the comfort of their home and community. During a recent session with a 2-year-old, I was privileged to work with the child’s mother, maternal grandmother, and paternal grandmother and show all three of them strategies for eliciting language. During the following session, the maternal grandmother commented on how she was able to follow the steps and get the same response from her grandson and she couldn’t believe how easy it was.
Traveling to homes, parks, and other community settings is not easy, but it is well worth it when we see families succeed in supporting their children and saying, “I can do this”, every day. I feel honored to be invited into the homes and communities of the families we serve and, after experiencing the enormous benefits, I would not want it to be any other way.
Rachael Gray, M.S., CCC-SLP
Early Intervention Program
HopeSparks Family Services
P 253-565-4887; F 253-565-2983