Leaping Forward # 9: A proper look at systems in early child and family support. There is a sort of magic here

'...the educational world is better equipped to work in these systems than is the medical world where authoritarian traditions can predominate.'

Systems-thinking is very straightforward. There is no mystery about it. The basis of systems-thinking is that when elements are joined together effectively, new characteristics and potentials emerge that were not present in the separate elements. This is very basic and it can feel like magic.

In early child and family support, the separate people helping each child can (should) be joined together into an effective team – which can achieve much more than the people can when they are working separately.

Also, the separate conditions/impairments in vision, hearing, cognition, communication, mobility, etc. can be treated together for the purposes of early education as a single unique multifaceted condition.  This system-thinking can make more efficient use of everyone’s time and energy.

In Leaping Forward #7, I divided the people in early child and family support into two groups – the professional body and the family body. I suggested that the family body is held in second place by the professional body, that the professional body sees itself as more important and knowledgeable than the family body. This continues to surprise me because the children we are talking about belong to the family body.

Systems-thinking can come to the rescue. If we join the two bodies together, we will create new characteristics and potentials that neither the family body nor the professional body has on its own. It is a great pity there is so much professional resistance to this magic.

These professional/family systems can be created around each individual child as in team around the child (TAC) in which parents have an equal place and an equal voice. They could be created at the higher level in multiagency design of local early child and family support systems. (They could be, but very rarely are.)

The barriers to these common-sense systems can include professional snobbery and unwillingness to let go of power. It seems to me the educational world is better equipped to work in these systems than is the medical world where authoritarian traditions can predominate. (That would be another system – the medical world and the education world joining together! Miracles can happen.)

To conclude, an important leap forward in early child and family support would result from a better appreciation of systems-thinking at every level, from senior management down to children and families at the grassroots.

Every conference and seminar about our children should be planned in a collaborative system with the family body and the professional body integrated together.

Peter Limbrick, April 2024

See: How to apply systems thinking in support of an infant with ‘multiple disabilities’ – moving on from the old ways
And: The Systems View of Life - by Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi - 2014

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