About babies and pre-school children who have significant challenges to their development and learning
Are you a parent, practitioner, manager or academic? Please see if your answers to these questions are the same as mine.
Question: Who has the right and responsibility to bring up these children?
Answer: Their parents.
Q: Whose task is it to support development and learning with these babies and infants in cognition, movement, communication, dexterity, social skills, etc?
A: Their parents – at home, within the family and community and in the natural activities of playing, socialising, moving around, mealtimes, bedtimes, washing, bathing, making choices, dressing, listening, looking, exploring... This is natural parenting but parents might ask for help and support while they are gradually learning how to bring up their children.
Q: Who can help parents to support their new child’s development and learning?
A: An early support practitioner who has extensive training, knowledge and experience about how babies and infants learn and about how parents can best be supported in being their child’s first teacher. This practitioner might be a ‘fieldworker’, ‘keyworker’, ‘primary worker’ or go by another name. This practitioner works with warmth, respect, humility and honesty. She or he listens to parents and takes the lead from them about which areas of development and learning to focus on.
Q: Who supports this primary practitioner?
A: The small individualised team of practitioners (TAC) who, collectively, know about this child’s strengths and needs in cognition, posture, movement, language, etc. and about the family’s situation. The people in this small team treat parents as equals and involve them fully in all decision-making.
Q: Who supports this small team?
A: The local team-around-the-child system that is designed and maintained by senior managers who have integrated local agencies into a seamless pathway for welcoming new families, learning about child and family needs, agreeing a plan of action, providing the agreed programme of support, and reviewing progress.
Q: Is this a rigid system?
A: No. The person who steps forward as the primary worker can change from time to time. Other members of the small team around the child have as much direct contact with child and parents as they need so they can be effective in this transdisciplinary teamwork.
Q: Can this basic code of transdisciplinary teamwork be adapted?
A: It will have to be. In some parts of some countries there will be fieldworkers trying to support children and families on their own without a team behind them. In other countries, families might have too many practitioners, appointments, assessments and programmes causing child and parents additional exhaustion, stress and strain.
Peter Limbrick, April 2023