Early child and family support conference in Portugal by ISEI and Eurlyaid. 5: Learning valuable lessons from the pandemic about working at a distance

This is the fifth of my wishes for program content

Conference: ADVANCING COMPREHENSIVE EARLY CHILDHOOD INTERVENTION - what parents, professionals, science, and national systems can tell us

Editorial comment

While this important world conference/summit can learn from the (very slow) progress during the last fifty years, it must also consider aspects of the impact of the recent pandemic on children who have significant challenges to their development and learning and on their families and early support workers. There are valuable lessons here and it would be foolish to ignore them. As the event is still 22 months away, there is time to gather information from around the world – both from the wealthy West and the much less wealthy global south. (I am not connected to Portugal 25.)

We have to find some positives within the general misery and impoverishment caused by the lockdowns – sufferings we are still experiencing in education, health, employment, food security, social/community cohesion...

Early support managers and workers had to find ways to support children and families without being in physical contact. There were many surprising success stories here with families and workers reporting benefits they had not expected. The Portugal 25 organisers could collect and sift these reports from many countries and will surely find some real advantages in the various forms of at-a-distance working.

While there were advantages and disadvantages in various approaches to lockdowns, I am sure many parents saved time, money, energy and spirit by not having to attend regular therapy sessions in their local (or not so local) hospital and clinics. This change in routine would also have reduced pressures on some children.

I have commented negatively elsewhere on the value of regular visits to hospital paediatric departments and have suggested there is need for a fundamental re-appraisal of this sort of ‘therapy’, but Portugal 25 will surely want to keep the best of the old and add to it lessons from the pandemic. (See : A fresh look at paediatric therapy. Is there a better way?)

Part of the role of early support workers is to help parents learn how to bring up their new child. Supportive conversations in this approach can happen without the child being present and might even be improved without that distraction. Once a worker-parent relationship is established, this work can easily be done at a distance with or without lockdown conditions.

Early child and family support is making very slow progress around the world (Going forwards? Going backwards?) and every opportunity to improve must be taken very seriously. Learning from the pandemic is a golden opportunity.

Portugal 25 conference/summit comes at a perfect time to collect and analyse lessons from the pandemic and I am sure there will be many willing speakers for the subject.

Peter Limbrick, January 2024. My other wishes can be seen here.


See also: Contrasting a therapy approach with an educational approach to the early skill of moving on the floor

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