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Jacqueline

Jacqueline Barfoot

Year of Award: 2013 Award State: Northern Territory Education > Specialised Education
Social Welfare > Disabled And Disadvantaged
The Nancy Fairfax Churchill Fellowship to investigate current evidence-based 'parent-child interaction' intervention methods for children with learning disabilities - USA, UK, Netherlands, Israel
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I am trained as an Occupational Therapist and have been providing clinical services to children with developmental difficulties and their families for over 10 years. In my current role I am also the Manager of the Early Intervention Service at Carpentaria Disability Services (EIS-CDS) in Darwin. This is a multidisciplinary team that provides therapy services to children aged 0-6 years with significant developmental delays and their families using a family-centred, relational and trans-disciplinary model of practice. A vital component of early intervention services is ensuring that they are evidence based and meet family needs.

There is now an accepted understanding of the importance of the parent-child relationship and the link this has to positive developmental outcomes for the child. This has lead to an increasing focus on providing early intervention services to children with developmental delays in collaboration with their parents (Karaasalan & Mahoney, 2013). Theory and research indicate that the emotional, social, cognitive and linguistic development of children occurs within the context of primary relationships (Muir, Lojkasek & Cohen, 1999). There is a growing body of research that suggests the effectiveness of early intervention for children with developmental delays is not related to the amount or intensity of services received but in the ability of the parents to read their child’s cues and respond sensitively (Mahoney & Nam, 2009). However, in my experience many early intervention services for children with disabilities still appear to be delivered by the therapist to the child.

The goal of this Fellowship was to investigate evidence based parent-child interaction approaches used in early intervention for children with disabilities. Factors that contribute to parents’ ability to engage in this model of therapy as well as factors associated with developmentally trained therapists being able to implement these relational interventions were also explored. 

During this Fellowship I looked at a number of evidence-based relationship-based interventions. The interventions I investigated are considered to be within the scope of early intervention services for children whose primary concern is developmentally based difficulties, and can be implemented by developmentally trained therapists (i.e. Occupational Therapy, Speech Pathology and Physiotherapy). Parent-child psychotherapy was also briefly explored as there is growing application of this model to families with children with disabilities. In addition, I visited a number of leading Universities to gain further understanding of other considerations that should be made when implementing a relational model of therapy in the early intervention context.

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