Your Early Intervention Team

TEAMWORK is an important part of Early Intervention

An old African proverb says that it "takes a village to raise a child." Early intervention also "takes a village." It helps to have a team of professionals working with the family to ensure that the child's needs are met.

 

Mary Pat Moeller, Ph.D
Director, Center for Childhood Deafness

If you have learned that your child is deaf or hard of hearing, we understand that you may have many questions and concerns about what resources are available for your family.

Hi, I'm Mary Pat Moeller, Director of the Center for Childhood Deafness at Boys Town National Research Hospital.

We have created this video to introduce you to the different professionals and specialists that may become part of your child's early intervention team. Your team is here to guide you and help you develop a service plan that best fits your child and family's needs.

Your Medical Team

The Universal Newborn Screening is a mandatory screening conducted in the hospital before your newborn goes home.

Children who do not pass the newborn screening are first referred to an audiologist for diagnostic testing to confirm the results. An audiologist is someone who specializes in measuring hearing and fitting amplification devices.

An audiologist is a very important member of your team. This person tracks your baby's hearing levels over time and uses special technology to fit, program and adjust hearing aids and cochlear implants.

Your family will also be referred to an Ear, Nose and Throat physician called an Otolaryngologist. Your physician may request further tests to determine the cause of your child's hearing loss and make recommendations for your child's medical treatment options, such as providing medical clearance for hearing aids or referring to a cochlear implant team.

Your child's ENT physician and your audiologist follow your child's hearing needs from infancy through adulthood.

Your Educational Team

An old proverb states it takes a village to raise a child. Your child will be surrounded by a team of professionals who will work closely with your family to ensure that your child's needs are met. Depending on your family's goals and your child's personal needs, you may not work with every team member indicated in this video.

One of the first persons that your family may meet is the Service Coordinator. This person works with early intervention programs in your community and will help you connect with educational programs, support services, and community resources. Sometimes many professionals become involved in your child's care. Your service coordinator works closely with you and your team to help develop and implement an Individual Family Service Plan.

Next, your family will be assigned a family-infant specialist. Family-Infant specialists may have a variety of backgrounds such as a teacher of the deaf, speech-language pathologist or early childhood specialist. Often, this is someone who has been specifically trained in early education and has experience working with families who have a child who is deaf or hard of hearing.

Your family infant specialist will work with you to develop an individualized family services plan based on your needs and your child's strengths and current development. This plan outlines your child's developmental needs and establishes milestone goals for the first three years of life including: auditory skills, physical skills, cognitive skills, communication skills, social and emotional skills and independence.

It is important for your family to have a partnership with your family-infant specialist. You know more about your child than any professional, but by partnering with a family-infant specialist, you can join your knowledge and skills to benefit your child.

During home visits, your family-infant specialist will observe you playing naturally with your child. Rather than working directly with your child, this professional will support and coach you with ideas for promoting your child's development during every day routines, like diapering, feeding and playing.

Depending on your family's communication goals, your team may include a Speech-Language Pathologist or a Listening and Spoken Language Specialist who works on developing listening, talking, and learning words and concepts. Some speech language pathologists are also skilled in sign language. If your speech language pathologist or spoken language specialist does not offer sign, your service coordinator may be able assist your family in finding the appropriate resource, as needed.

Families may choose to work with a teacher who has specialized training in educating children who are deaf or hard of hearing. A teacher of the deaf or hard of hearing has in-depth understanding of the ways in which hearing loss affects learning and incorporates strategies to promote listening, language, learning and communication access.

Support Services

Sometimes children who are deaf or hard of hearing have additional developmental needs such as vision impairment or motor or balance challenges.

Additional professionals can help identify special needs, address family or child challenges and provide support along the way. Your service coordinator and team members will help you find additional specialists to compliment your Individual Family Service Plan and enhance your child's development.

95% of children born deaf or hard of hearing have hearing parents. It is important for families to understand that they are not alone in the journey.

Support can come from talking with friends and other families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Some national family to family support networks include: Hands and Voices, Alexander Graham Bell Association and the American Society for Deaf Children. Contact your service coordinator for information on local support groups in your community.

Babyhearing.org is a comprehensive web site specifically designed for parents of children who have recently been identified as deaf or hard of hearing. This site offers detailed information on hearing loss, amplification and listening devices, parent to parent support groups and parent trainings, and further outlines each member of your family's early intervention team.

Nebraska parents can contact the Early Development Network comprehensive information on services for your family. Parents can look to Boys Town National Research Hospital for information and resources on hearing evaluations, listening devices, speech and language development, research studies, preschool and parent education and support.

We hope this video has helped answer your questions about the many early intervention services available for your child. Every team member plays an important role in your child's journey. By working together you and your team will find the right programs and services for your child's needs and your family goals.

For additional information and resources, please visit boystownhospital.org and babyhearing.org.

In this section, we introduce members of the "village" that make up the early intervention team.
You may not work with all the team members here – it will depend on your child's needs. However, we are introducing players who often work on early intervention teams.

Generally, you and members of your team will plan strategies for meeting your baby's needs; a strong team can be a wonderful support for parents.

MEET the Team Players

You, the parent

You are the first and most important member of the team. No one knows your baby as well as you.

  • You are there to observe your baby's development, from rolling over to sitting up, from standing to walking, from cooing and babbling to first spoken words or from gestures and pointing to first words in sign.
  • You will be the person who puts on the hearing aids or cochlear implants and communicates with your baby throughout the day.
  • You will be the person to tell other team members when the first words come.
  • You will guide professionals to understand what works best with your baby.
  • You will work with your family-infant teacher to become an advocate throughout your child's years of development.
  • Teachers and team members will come and go, but you and your child will grow and develop together.

Audiologist

The audiologist is a very important member of the team. This individual:

  • Keeps track of the amount of hearing your baby has.
  • Uses special technology and knowledge to fit hearing aids.
  • Monitors and programs cochlear implants.
  • This is the person to contact if you have any questions or concerns about how your child is hearing or how listening devices are working.
  • You will get to know this person well, because it is best practice for little ones who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (DHH) to visit the audiologist often.
  • Find an audiologist who specializes in working with babies

Educational Team Members

Services Coordinator

  • A services coordinator is one of your first contacts with the early intervention program.
  • This individual will meet with you to explain the services in detail and assist you with getting your child and family enrolled.
  • Your services coordinator becomes a central point of contact between you and the early intervention program and/or other professionals.
  • This professional will work with you to identify and meet the baby's needs by coordinating both formal and informal supports.  Often, this person is a neutral sounding board who can talk with you about your questions or concerns.
  • Sometimes many professionals become involved in your team. It can be overwhelming to keep up with all the contacts to keep things running smoothly. The services coordinator can assist with this and many other needs.
  • More detailed information may be found on list of contacts for State Coordinators within U.S.A.

Family-Infant Teacher

  • The Family-Infant Teacher [link to family infant specialist page] may have a background in a variety of disciplines (e.g., teacher of the deaf, speech-language pathologist; audiologist, special education teacher, early childhood specialist).
  • Be sure to know the professional background of your teacher.
  • It is important that your teacher have special expertise in working with infants who are deaf or hard of hearing and their families.

Speech/Language Pathologist (SLP)

  • Sometimes, your family-infant teacher is a speech language pathologist (SLP), who has special training in working with young children who are DHH.
  • An SLP is skilled at promoting spoken language development; guiding you through the development of listen, talking, and learning words and concepts.
  • Some SLPs are skilled in sign language, and can help the family learn to sign, if that is the family's chosen approach. If the SLP is not skilled in the use of sign, this individual will help you find appropriate resources.
  • An SLP is also skilled in promoting communication through alternate approaches (pictures, communication boards) for children with additional special needs.

Teacher of the Deaf/Hard of hearing

  • This professional has specialized training in educating children who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • These teachers may be endorsed to work with young children, or they may work in classrooms with school age children.
  • A teacher of the deaf/hard of hearing has in-depth understanding of the ways in which hearing loss affects learning, and knows strategies to promote listening, language, learning and communication access.

Listening and Spoken Language Specialist (LSLS)

  • Some professionals who work with infants who are DHH and their families pursue an additional certification through the Alexander Graham Bell Association.
  • These certified professionals assist the family in promoting listening and spoken language as the outcome for the child.
  • These individuals work with families in a variety of settings.
  • Learn more here.

Medical Team Members

Otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose, & Throat (ENT) Physician)

  • The ENT physician specializes in evaluating and diagnosing the cause of your child's hearing loss and makes recommendations for your child's medical treatment options.
  • Your child's ENT physician will take care of your child's medical hearing and other ENT needs throughout their childhood and adulthood.
  • The ENT doctor will examine your child and provide medical clearance for obtaining hearing aids.
  • Your ENT doctor may be involved with a Cochlear Implant (CI) team or will help you link with a Cochlear Implant team, if you desire such services and they are indicated for your child.
  • If a CI is indicated and a family chooses for their child to have a CI, an ENT doctor who specializes in CI surgery should perform the surgery.
  • The ENT doctor's recommendations are sent to your child's primary care physician, so that medical services are well coordinated.

A Primary Care Physician

  • Your baby needs to see the family practitioner or pediatrician regularly in order to grow up to be healthy and strong.
  • Your primary care physician will be asked to approve and sign the Individualized Family Services Plan (IFSP) developed by your baby's team.
  • Your team will work to ensure that educational and medical services are communicating with each other and coordinating care. This is in everyone's best interest.

Other IMPORTANT SUPPORTS

Other Families with Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

  • Most families tell us that they did not expect to learn that their baby was DHH. Naturally, it takes time and support to adjust.
  • Most families tell us that meeting other families with deaf or hard-of-hearing children is an informative and healing experience. They highly recommend that you seek out family-to-family experiences.
  • There are a variety of ways to meet other families who have "walked in your shoes," and your early intervention team will help you make those connections.
  • Your team will let you know if parent support groups are available.
  • Some states have a Guide-by-Your Side program through the Hands and Voices where trained parents may make home visits to provide support in the early weeks after identification or your baby's hearing status.
  • This is vitally important, even if you do not have such contacts in your community, there are creative ways to connect with other families.
  • Sometimes it helps to have an experienced parent help you understand how the IFSP works, or how to advocate for your child's needs at the IFSP meeting. By law, you have the right to invite another parent to meetings concerning your child.

Role Models

  • Like meeting other families, meeting a deaf or hard-of-hearing adult can also be a supportive learning experience.
  • Role models know what it is like to grow up as an individual who is DHH.
  • They can share vitally helpful experiences and insights.
  • Your early intervention team can help you access these valuable supports.​