Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Leading the Spanish Early Intervention Transformation

The history and current context of early intervention in Spain are too complex to cover in one blog post. Today, I summarize one of Spain’s strengths: key leaders.

Marga Cañadas, the assistant dean for occupational therapy at the Catholic University of Valencia (UCV), has been the pioneer of a family-centered approach. For the past 4 years or so, she has spoken often about the need to put early intervention in natural environments, to make it family-centered, and to make it functional by making it routines based. She is the director of UCV’s own early intervention center, La Alquería, where she has initiated these kinds of reforms. The Dean of the School of Psychology, Teacher Education, and Educational Sciences at UCV, Gabi Martínez, has been a stalwart supporter of Marga and has sponsored many of my trips to Spain. Truly, UCV applies its commitment to helping people with disabilities by being a major force in early intervention. Here you see Gabi and Marga on the right. From the left are Pau García Grau, doctoral student and two-time Siskin International Intern; Lola Grau, Assistant Dean for Psychology at UCV, me, and the Rector of the university.

A nationwide coordinating organization for 884 agencies working with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities is FEAPS. This organization has been working on a “transformation” of services to improve quality, specifically to focus on family quality of life. The director of that project is Javier Tamarit, a titan in the field of developmental disabilities in Spain. Early intervention (meaning of course children 0-6, as in most of the world) services have been part of this transformation, with 38 “centers” participating so far. On YouTube, you can see presentations from a recent conference on advances in the transformation of early intervention services. An example of Javier’s generosity is his securing over 700 participants for a study Pau García has been conducting with the Spanish version of my Family Quality of Life (FaQoL) scale. Here’s Javier, speaking at a recent meeting organized by the Castilla la Mancha FEAPS.

Family quality of life is a priority with FEAPS, largely thanks to a couple of giants in the field, Miguel Ángel Verdugo and Climent Giné. Climent has won the international award from the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and he is a professor emeritus at Ramon Llull University, in Barcelona, where he was the dean of the School of Psychology, Education, and Sport Sciences. He has been studying family quality of life and family needs assessment as part of an international team of researchers led by Ann Turnbull. He has also been conducting a qualitative study of implementation of the Routines-Based Model with 11 early intervention teams in five programs. In a studious, warm-hearted, and passionate way, Climent has guided students and fellow researchers towards ever more family-centered approaches. He was also kind enough to lend us one of his doctoral students, Natasha Baqués Aguiar, to be a Siskin International Intern. Here are Climent, a translator, me, and Javier.

Other outstanding individuals are propelling Spain out of an outmoded clinic-situated, child-centered, professional-driven approach to atención temprana into a routines-based, family-centered, and functional approach. I think of Juan de Albacete (that’s not his name; that’s where he’s from, but it’s how I know him), Cristina Díaz, Consejera Sandra Fernández Herranz, Climent’s team of researchers, the staff of La Alquería, Victoria from Mallorca, Carmen Serrano, Rosa Fernández… many inspiring people. But these leaders, Marga Cañadas (with Gabi Martínez), Javier Tamarit, and Climent Giné are emblems of the frequent finding in early intervention implementation research—that leadership is key.