Thursday, July 1, 2010

Curriculum for Home Visiting

Q: I would like to know what you would suggest as a good curriculum for us to use as providers. Many curriculums are on the market, but we need something that can be useful for sharing when doing activities and providing carry over suggestions to parents.

A: A curriculum is supposed to be what is taught to the learner. In early intervention, (a) home visiting is not just about "teaching" parents and (b) when they do want to be taught something, the content should come from (i) their individualized needs, not a curriculum; and (ii) the IFSP, if those needs are already reflected on there. In some cases, needs not on the IFSP should be put on there, if the family desires.

Many people confuse a curriculum with intervention suggestions. So your question might actually be about the intervention suggestions we make to parents. In our model, these come not from a book (e.g., curriculum) but from a process called Home-Based Behavioral Consultation. This is a collaborative, problem-solving process that marries the family's needs and resources (e.g., which routines they want help with and what they think is feasible) with the home visitor's expertise (i.e., strategies that address the specific need identified). This requires the home visitor to have knowledge about child development, family functioning, and behavioral interventions. It would be a great resource to take typical problems in everyday home routines and list various commonly suggested strategies, but I know of no such resource. So we are still left with relying on the training, experience, and collaboration of home visitors with families. Home visiting isn't an entry level position; it is sophisticated.

Having said all this, we do use the Measure of Engagement, Independence, and Social Relationships to monitor children's functioning in routines. This should not be used as a curriculum: It does not dictate what we do with families, but it helps those home visitors who don't think about the various components of child functioning within routines.

Perhaps the closest thing to a "curriculum" we use is the Routines-Based Interview, which is actually a process, not a product. But it is the tool for helping families decide what they want on the IFSP, which, as I mentioned earlier, is the list of things to work on--the definition of a curriculum.