Tele-intervention is a new term for many educators. While its use varies across school divisions, the concept and mindset shift required present a unique opportunity. Building relationships with families, by following their lead and offering strategies and support, grows a confidence and competence that will last far beyond the preschool years.
What is tele-intervention?
This methodology primarily engages audio or video technology to connect providers and educator with parents or other caregivers in ways that support their child’s learning and development throughout their daily activities and routines. But it can also include low-tech options, such as delivering instruction via a packet dropped off at the child’s home. Providers and educators use a coaching approach to help parent(s), caregiver(s) and sometimes siblings to embed strategies that promote the child’s learning and development.Source: Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center
Tips & Resources
This list represents the most practical and relevant takeaways from trusted sources on the topic of tele-intervention that can be used during a variety of sessions (i.e. phone or live/recorded video). While many resources target early intervention providers, the strategies are appropriate and applicable to young children through age five.
#1 Be aware of your virtual presence.
Adjusting your communication style to address the differences between face-to-face and virtual interactions can have a significant impact on the effectiveness of a session.
- Increase the average wait time between asking parents a question and following up with an additional prompt.
- Keep exchanges simple by asking just one question at a time. Try to maintain a balance between your questions and suggestions and the family’s opportunity to reflect and respond.
- Be mindful of non-verbal feedback (i.e smiling, nodding) and pair or reinforce the sentiment with verbal feedback.
- Check in with the family throughout the session on your pacing and volume, making adjustments or providing assistance with their technology as needed. A simple way to ensure they feel comfortable in the conversation is to mirror their rate of speech/pacing.
#2 Take a “whole family” approach.
Apply the tenants of a “whole child” approach to interactions with families, acknowledging how their overall wellbeing affects their ability to engage in the session and support their child.
- Begin each session by checking in with family celebrations and/or needs before jumping to child progress.
- Connect them with community resources when appropriate.
- Include older siblings in sessions and planning conversations. They offer even more opportunities for interactions, social communication, practice, and generalization of new skills.
- Create alternate plans for when technology is not reliable or sessions are rescheduled. For example, create a list of routines or activities a family could record and send at a better time. Provide feedback via their preferred method (i.e. email or text message).
#3 Use family routines as a guide.
Keep sessions relevant and practical by using the family’s daily routine as a framework for organizing discussion and interventions.
- Allow the family to set the “agenda” by talking through their daily routine. Model how to approach and problem-solve challenges they identify or routines they struggle with and are motivated to address.
- Consider how typical interactions, such as modeling, can be adjusted for virtual use and how props or objects in your home can provide more context or allow for demonstration.
- Make meaningful goals a priority, such as those that increase a child’s engagement and participation in family activities.
- Offer to provide support and feedback on routines you typically cannot observe. Ask families to record and send brief videos or pictures of challenging transitions or activities, like dinner or bedtime.
#4 Adopt a coaching style of interaction.
This method of service delivery requires a shift from teaching children to coaching adults and an approach that build the family’s capacity so learning continues between sessions.
- Keep questions open-ended and focus on those that provide opportunities for observation and reflection to build their knowledge and skills.
- It may be helpful to keep a list of potential questions handy to guide the discussion and spark new ways of thinking about an intervention or challenging situation.
- Have a consistent approach to each session, ensuring there is time for joint planning, observation, practice, reflection, and feedback.
#5 Be flexible with feedback.
Providing feedback during tele-intervention is as much about documentation as it is about connection.
- Ask the family’s preference for how they prefer to communicate (i.e. text messages, email, or by phone).
- Establish as least two methods of communication, one for session notes and joint plans that is accessible to the family and another for “just-in-time” coaching or more informal support.
- Consider providing families with procedures or steps to implement an agreed upon intervention.
- Document not only next steps, but strategies that were successful and those that were not to help inform IEP progress updates and annual reviews.
These webinars offer a broad overview of tele-practice considerations including the transition to supporting families in providing routines-based instruction at home.
- NEW! Supporting Young Children with Disabilities and their Families through Tele-Intervention (Virginia Department of Education)
- This webinar series provides an overview of using tele-intervention to support young children with disabilities and their families. Part one provides a brief overview of system requirements, how to plan a tele-intervention visit, and the elements of a virtual visit. Part two focuses on providing a tele-intervention visit and strategies to coach parents and provide support.
- Tele-practice in Early Intervention (Infant & Toddler Connection of Virginia)
- Applicable well into the preschool years, this webinar features two speech-language pathologists well-versed in using tele-practice to facilitate intervention with children and families. They describe equipment needs, debunk myths, and share five “must have” skills for tele-practice. Video clips are used throughout the webinar to illustrate how to coach and support children and families during tele-practice visits.
- Assessing and Addressing the Needs of Young Children with Disabilities through Telecommunication (Division for Early Childhood)
- The importance of conversation in the essential practices of early intervention for children, birth to five years, is paramount. In this webinar, Robin McWilliam, Ph.D., and Cami Stevenson show how to have virtual conversations through telecommunication to find out who’s in the family’s ecology, assess the child and family’s needs, develop participation-based child goals and family goals, construct a routines-by-goals matrix, and provide support-based visits.
- 10 Strategies for Engaging Parents (Not Children?) during Tele-Intervention (Virginia Early Intervention Blog)
- 7 Technology Tips for Tele-Intervention (Virginia Early Intervention Blog)
- Teletherapy Has Been Powering Virtual Special Education for Years (The Hechinger Report)
- Planning for the Use of Video Conferencing for Preschool Special Education and Early Care and Education during the COVID-19 Pandemic (Larry Edelman)