‘Action plans...are designed to reduce the child and family’s exhaustion and stress as much as possible’
Peter Limbrick writes: I hope that one day soon there will be an early child and family support system in every part of every country for families whose baby or infant has significant challenges to development and learning. So that this early support can be fully integrated and effective, each family can be offered a locally relevant version of team around the child.
My ten principles for effective integrated early child and family support are listed here so readers can decide how relevant each one is to their local situation and how they might need to be modified.
ONE: When two or more practitioners are working to support the same child, they should talk to each other as often as necessary. In this way they can share observations and tell each other what they are doing to support the family and to help the child develop and learn.
TWO: Parents have a rightful place in their child’s team. This is because the child belongs to the parents and no plans or decisions should be made without parents being fully involved. Before work begins, there should be an informal outline agreement between parents and the practitioners who are going to provide support.
THREE: When practitioners have each acquired first knowledge of the child’s strengths and needs and of the family’s situation, they agree a single unified holistic action plan. This should conform to the initial informal agreement made with the family.
FOUR: Each child’s TAC (team around the child) comprises the small number of people who have the most regular and practical involvement with the child. There is no manager in authority - each member gets support from the others and everyone has an equal voice. This is horizontal teamwork at its best.
FIVE: Action plans in early child and family support are designed to reduce the child and family’s exhaustion and stress as much as possible. Child and family are helped to have the best possible quality of life. Bonds of attachment between the new child and significant family adults are nurtured.
SIX: It is the responsibility of parents to bring up their child. It is the responsibility of early support practitioners to support them when they ask for help. The ‘team around the child’ system within early child and family support offers respectful partnership rather than authoritative intervention. Parents are helped to find an evolving balance between the needs of the child and the needs of the family.
SEVEN: Activities to support the child’s learning and development are integrated into the child and family’s natural everyday activities. Teachers, therapists and other practitioners around the child support parents in learning how to help their child in these activities.
EIGHT: In supporting a child’s development and learning, practitioners and parents avoid using such terms as ‘multiple disabilities’ and think instead of each child having a single unique multifaceted condition. The task then is to integrate all their work and play into an individualised multifaceted response for each unique child. This approach develops and uses collective competence.
NINE: Support for a new child’s development and learning is much more an education issue than a health issue. Visits to hospital and clinics are kept to a minimum. There would be great benefits if paediatric therapy could be redefined and differently organised.
TEN: Parents are not treated as passive recipients of early child and family support. They can work at the grassroots alongside practitioners to create a local integrated system that counters institutional and oppressive attitudes and reaches all the families that want this sort of support.
This is a modified extract from the forthcoming book Early Child and Family Support Principles and Prospects by Peter Limbrick that will be available early in 2022.