The training of early intervention staff
Grazyna Walczak, Poland

Plenary session 1 - Early intervention, Monday 10 July 2000, 9.00 - 10.30


Early intervention consists of the earliest possible rehabilitation of a small impaired child’s development and the psycho-pedagogical support for his/her family.

Who should support the development of a child with special needs?

People, who have the greatest potential to know a child’s needs and possibilities, are his parents and close relatives.
Are parents themselves, without any support or help outside the family, able to help their child?
The birth of a handicapped child is for his family and relatives a new and difficult reality, which they have to face.
In this complicated situation not only a child, due to his impairment, needs support, but also his family. In the opinion of many scientists and practitioners a great variety of psycho-educational help and advice about the methods of a child’s revalidation should be offered within the family support.

Thus in the process of early intervention the most important are: a child, his family and supporting persons.

Child, parents, supporting persons

The analysis of different concepts, models of early intervention shows that to those who are most often included in this process belong:

These people depending on the applied concept, form a more or less formal cooperating team. However, the most often and direct contact with a family belongs to a home teacher.
Among the above-mentioned people, it's the home teachers, who, in my opinion, deserve most attention and whose training in many countries is not efficient enough and evokes many discussions. The other specialists, who finished the appropriate studies, are well prepared for their profession. For the needs of early intervention they are trained additionally on special courses and seminars.

Therefore, a question emerges; what should be done and how to educate home teachers and other specialists so that they could well play their roles and be well prepared to support a child and its family

The analysis of the literature and resource materials from foreign centres shows that most early intervention teachers get prepared for their work while actually performing their duties:

Each of the above mentioned forms has its advantages and disadvantages. All of them are thoroughly described in literature, so I will not discuss them any further.

From my own experience, I know that also postgraduate studies can effectively teach the qualifications expected from the teachers of early intervention.
For few years such postgraduate studies, which I’m going to present here, have been conducted in The College Of Special Education in Warsaw. The programme for these studies was developed basing on the experience from the research referring to the problems of early intervention and on long lasting cooperation with the specialists from Theofaan Institute in Grave.

Applicants for the training

The training is meant for all people who already work or want to work in early intervention teams for visually impaired children.
It is essential that the applicant has bachelor’s degree or vocational training certificate of pedagogic, special pedagogic, psychology, or any other specialization and can supply a documentary evidence for his/ her work with a blind or partially sighted child.

Object of the training

Preparing the participants to:

Recruitment

Candidates are obliged to send the necessary documents, after analysis of which they might be invited for an interview.

Length of time – three semesters

Number of participants- approximately 20 people

Forms of classes:
Lectures, training, practice, schooling visits. It is assumed that every participant will carry out and present the documentary evidence of the early intervention practice conducted in his residential area or, in exceptional cases, on a rehabilitation camp.
While realizing the classes special attention is drawn to the necessity of applying the conditions of a child’s natural environment at all stages of his rehabilitation and cooperation with the parents.

Number of hours: 300

Methods of assessment evaluation and monitoring of the study:
Written assignments, examinations, reports of the practice. All participants before and after the course fill in a special questionnaire concerning, among the others, the problems and their knowledge of early intervention.

Conditions of receiving the diploma:
Passing all the required exams and presenting the thesis written on the basis of the carried out practice.

Faculty:
Specialists from Poland and foreign centres (so far, mainly from Holland).

The programme: Within the study programme there are 4 main theme units, whose aim is to help the students to learn the needs and possibilities of a child and the family and carry out the effective therapy.

Thus the following units have been differentiated:

  1. basis of early intervention
  2. evaluation/ diagnosis of functional level of a child and his family
  3. methods of a child's and family support
  4. formal legislation of early intervention

Unit I – Basis of early intervention

discusses:

Unit II – Diagnosis

consists, among others, of:

Unit III - Rehabilitation methods of a child and the family

includes:

UNIT IV- Formal legislation of early intervention

contains among others:

A detailed programme with a list of literature has been developed for each unit.

The realization of the study program is carried out within the following stages:

The opening
Meeting with the co-ordinator – informing the students about the programme and the conditions of its realization.

Realizing the program
(For 3 semesters, 3-4 days’ meetings every month)

UNIT I: Basis of early intervention
UNIT II: Methods of diagnosis
UNIT III: Working methods with a child and the family
UNIT IV: Formal legislation of early intervention

Presenting the thesis- discussion within the group

Individual practice

“Passing” through all those stages, a student gains not only theoretical but also practical knowledge, which he/she can directly apply. Different forms of active training, for example presenting the discussed methods and tools, participating in simulations showing the application of those methods, playing different roles in the arranged situations, watching and discussing the video materials, schooling visits ,all these promote the systematic introducing of a student to the role of a home teacher.
In my opinion the individual practice with a child and the requirement to present its effects in the form of thesis, plays also a vital role in the process of teachers’ education.
Realizing his/her practice, a student has a systematic contact with a child and the family, which allows him/her to go through all stages of the process of early intervention.
Multidisciplinary assessment of the family and child’s functioning, forces a student to study thoroughly all the documentation of the child’s earlier rehabilitation and treatment.

It also obligates the trainee to co-operate with other specialists, like psychologist, visual and speech therapist, paediatrician and ophthalmologist.
The theme units content and their realization within the presented stages, allows for participation of the best local and foreign specialists, who present the selected issues and not the whole theme. It is much easier to come for a few days and realize the whole series of themes, than to come every week for 2-3 hours.
Involving the foreign specialists gives students the possibility to gain knowledge from the most competent sources that are available within certain area.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

I hope I don’t have to convince anyone here about the vital role of early intervention in the process of rehabilitation. We all also know how important is a home teacher and other specialists in this process.
Here appears another question- what should be done to accelerate the introduction of early intervention in these countries, where this process is not widespread.
Apart from legislation barriers, which are different in each country, there are many possibilities to support the idea of early intervention introduction. One of them is the preparation/education of specialists. It would be good if such specialists were educated at the best possible level, following the idea of European integrity.
Thus, Ladies and Gentlemen I have a proposal by this century standards.
Let’s unite all our efforts to educate the specialists of early intervention
.
Taking advantage of the experiences from many countries, we can found international training programs, which can be realized in the form of postgraduate study.

Why postgraduate study?

I believe, that formerly finished studies and practice might be a good basis to know specific working methods in the process of early intervention.
Such study can give the unique chance of education for those from Central and Eastern Europe. It can also play a vital role in creating the new reality during the current transformation of political systems. I propose to locate this study in Central Europe with an easy access, good accommodation base and efficient scientific and educational background.

This year, in The College of Special Education in Warsaw, we have started the postgraduate study of early intervention for the fourth time, so I suggest to start the next study in the form of international one.
Considering the organizational principles of postgraduate study in WSPS, I propose to realize the issues of Unit I- basis of early intervention – in the home country of the participant or, if requested, in the main base. The remaining units would be realized in the main base with the participation of the best foreign specialists and during the schooling visits in different centres. The practical part the study would be carried out in the participant’s residential area.
The study would last 4 semesters.

As for the funds, we are looking for sponsors, but international programs could be also a great chance. Apart from educating the home teachers, there could be regularly organized workshops, seminars for all those involved in the process of early intervention of visually impaired children. I am fully aware of the tremendous work that is required to prepare and conduct such study, however if the efforts of all people involved are united everything will be possible. I am counting on support of all those engaged in the early intervention, but especially on the help from the European Committee of ICEVI.

Thank you for your attention.

Address:
College for Special Education, Ul. Szczęsliwicka 40
02-353 Warsaw, Poland
Tel/Fax: +48 22 643 2289
E-mail: ABAW@POLBOX.com


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