When early intervention (EI) abruptly shifted from in-person to virtual services during the pandemic, many providers worked quickly to transfer their skills to the new modality, but few had training in virtual service provision. Providers reported that they had to quickly hone their coaching skills to make virtual visits work. While some providers reported that this modality shift created the opportunity for more family engagement during EI visits, others reported that many families couldn’t access virtual EI visits. Many families faced myriad challenges related to economic inequality including lack of internet access or data limits, not enough devices for all family members to participate in school and EI, challenges with childcare while working from home, and increased hours in essential jobs. Some families opted out of services because they just didn’t think that virtual services would be very effective.
Meanwhile, service providers also reported facing similar challenges with adjusting to working from home, managing childcare and technology, and experiencing feelings of being unprepared to support parent-child interactions from behind the webcam. While service providers certainly rose to the challenges they faced, the pandemic highlighted economic inequities in EI service delivery, especially when provided virtually. Sharing the experiences of families and EI providers and reflecting on how we can provide more equitable support during virtual EI service delivery is an important step forward as we continue to adjust to this shift in how we do business.
This OneOp webinar series, Going Virtual, addresses tips and strategies providers can implement to facilitate more equitable virtual EI visits. During the first webinar in the series, Creating Equity During Family Visits, we will build a foundational concept of what equity looks like in virtual EI settings, consider ways to equitably engage families across virtual settings, and learn about how our own beliefs and experiences can impact these practices.
To RSVP for the webinar on March 23 or to view the recording later, visit the event page.
Schumaker-Murphy, M., & Childress, D. C. (2021). “It made me a better coach” – EI provider experiences with telepractice during COVID-19. Virtual poster session presented at the Division for Early Childhood’s (DEC) 38th Annual International Conference on Young Children with Special Needs & Their Families.