Relationship-based early intervention services for children with complex needs

Published: 21 Jan 2016

Relationship-based early intervention services for children with complex needs

Dr. Carolyn Blackburn, a Research Fellow in Early Childhood Studies at Birmingham City University, is interested in the influences on children’s learning and development, especially in relation to their socio-emotional, communication and cognitive development.

Last year she travelled to New Zealand and investigate some of their foremost relationship-based Early Intervention services.

In the UK the current nature and structure of many Early Intervention programmes means they run the risk of devaluing families’ contribution to children’s learning and development, as well as children’s varying competencies and strengths. Services are not always integrated and may contribute to family stressors rather than reducing them.

Carolyn’s Churchill Fellowship, which was funded in partnership with Wave Trust and the Dulverton Trust, allowed her to visit the world-leading Champion Centre in Christchurch. Here, relationship-based Early Intervention services are provided for children aged birth to six who have at least two areas of developmental delay/disability. The programme is offered in a centre-based model of service, in partnership with parents, and in accordance with international best practice.

During the four weeks that she spent at the centre, Carolyn noted many observable physical and social processes and structures within the delivery of the model that contributed to parents feeling empowered and having high aspirations for their children, as well as children’s progress over time.

These included respectful professional interactions with children and families, integrated professional working, and effective and timely communication between professionals and families, alongside a pedagogy of listening, waiting and personalisation.

Parents’ high aspirations for children reflected professionals’ aspirations that children be included in education and society, as well as meaningful employment and achievement in life. At the most profound level, there was the aspiration that the Champion Centre Early Intervention service could “change brains for parent and child.” (Champion Centre Director)

Carolyn will be presenting her report findings at Birmingham City University internal research conferences and cluster events. She will also be speaking at the International Society on Early Intervention Conference on Children’s Rights and Early Intervention in Stockholm, June 2016, as well as other international conferences. The findings will go to inform undergraduate and post-graduate teaching within the University.