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by Loretta Hayslip, Ph.D.

The OSEP key principles [1] and the DEC recommended practices [2] both stress the importance of routines and relationships as a part of family centered practices.   When learning or practicing a new skill using familiar routines, young children apply the skills to meaningful contexts.  These experiences also are linked to important individuals in the child’s life.  Children are more likely to thrive when positive rapport is built with family members and other caregivers.

In their 2017 article, Ely, Gullifor, and Hollinshead [3] discussed the implementation of family centered practices with professionals who serve families of young children with visual impairments. The authors utilized a method called the Matrix Session Planning approach.  In this planning method family members are supported in meaningful ways.  It begins with an early interventionist and a family member discussing the routines that may present challenges for the child such as ones the child may be unable to accomplish independently.  Next the professional and family member identify possible strategies for helping the child achieve the desired outcome.  From those possible strategies, one is identified as the intervention focus.  This collaborative process provides families with the necessary supports to enhance their child’s development.


Desired Outcome Snack time Playtime Story time
Reach for, or move towards, an object or light Place snack items on a dark placemat where the child must reach for the items. Use toys with sounds or lights to encourage reaching. Use a large toy related to the story, to encourage the child to reach for objects.

The process outlined above focuses on the caregiver’s priorities.  When caregivers know what the focus of intervention is, and they have practiced strategies to achieve these outcomes, this can lead to increased rates of engagement within the family.  Seeing and experiencing success with the targeted strategies may encourage caregivers to practice the strategies regularly during daily routines.  This continued success also builds caregiver confidence.  Additionally, family members begin to see value in their ideas and the work they are doing to further their child’s development.

As an early interventionist, there are many strategies to choose from as you work with families of young children with disabilities or developmental delays.  Utilize recommended practices from our professional communities, such as the DEC Family and Environment Recommended Practices [2] (i.e., F4, F5, F6, E1, E2, E3, E4).  Provide family members with opportunities to try routines independently with some coaching (from professionals), and remember to build on each family’s strengths.

For more information on the Matrix Session Planning approach and to access the complete planning tool, visit the EIVI Professionals web page.


  1. Workgroup on Principles and Practices in Natural Environments, OSEP TA Community of Practice: Part C Settings. (2008, March). Agreed upon mission and key principles for providing early intervention services in natural environments. Retrieved from
  2. Division for Early Childhood. (2014). DEC recommended practices in early intervention/early childhood special education 2014. Retrieved from
  3. Ely, M. S., Gullifor, K., & Hollinshead, T. (2017). Family-centered early intervention visual impairment services through matrix session planning. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 2. 169-174.

Image from, CC0