Early Intervention and COVID-19: Advice for Parents of Children Ages 0–3 Whose Services Are Interrupted

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Parents and caregivers of children ages 0–3 who were receiving early intervention services by a speech-language pathologist (SLP) may be concerned about their child’s progress during this interruption. ASHA has this advice to families:

Communicate with your service coordinator. Check in to see if services can continue virtually for the time being (if so, ask what technology you’ll need and what paperwork you’ll need to fill out). See if your SLP will be available by phone/email to answer questions and offer suggestions, even if formal sessions aren’t taking place (note that some SLPs may be restricted from doing this, even if they’d like to help in this way). Ask if changes to your child’s Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) are needed—and, if so, how you can work with the rest of the IFSP team to make those changes. Let them know the best way to communicate with you (phone, email, video, websites, etc.).

Trust yourself. You know your child best and love your child the most, and your child trusts you more than anyone else. Follow your instincts on what your child needs and which aspects of daily activities and routines most help their progress—and overall speech and language development.

Remember your parent training. Consider the strategies and interactions you already know work well and what you are doing to foster communication development. Write them down. If you need more guidance, see if you and your SLP can develop a plan together.

Let real life be the guide. Young children learn best doing real-life activities with the people who are most important to them. Weave communication interactions and goals into everyday routines and activities such as mealtime, bath time, changing time, playtime, and household chores. 

Follow your child’s lead. Respond to your child’s interests and communication attempts, including coos, gestures, and words. Build on their strengths. 

Keep a log.Write down successes, challenges, and questions to share with your SLP. Record the activities you’d like feedback on or the ones you want to focus on. Note whether any of the original priorities or goals you shared with your SLP have shifted or changed. 

Use credible resources. Rely on trustworthy resources for supporting speech, language, and social communication development. Familiarize yourself with developmental milestones by age, and track your child’s progress. Ask your SLP for suggestions, and visit ASHA's public webpages to get information for families.

Engaging in early intervention services is a choice. It’s okay to say that you need to cancel services if virtual or other modified services are not a good fit for your family during this uncertain time. Talk with your SLP or service coordinator about adapting service delivery so it better fits your situation.

Find more tips for encouraging your child’s communication development at home, and information about speech and language milestones, in the Communicating With Baby toolkit.

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