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Element 8: Design Accessible Systems that are Flexible, Culturally Competent, and Responsive to Family Needs

This element recognizes that it is crucial for the system to remain flexible, accessible, and responsive to the needs of the family. Traditionally, family members have had to adapt their lives to meet the scheduling requirements and regulations of the system. The pressure of having to comply with the inner workings of such a complex system often creates undue stress on the family. In a family-centered approach, family members are provided with options and choices about when, where, and how to access services. A system that is flexible in meeting the needs of the child and responsive to the challenges of the family as a whole will ultimately result in less stress on the family, more family involvement in the early intervention process, and better results for the child. The team-based primary service provider (PSP) approach aims to provide the coordinated and comprehensive care that a family needs to support the child's overall development by taking advantage of naturally occurring teachable moments within everyday activities, routines, and places. This lessens the burden on the family to create "extra" learning opportunities within their busy schedules.

Practice Considerations

  • Be available (flexible hours, evening hours, and weekend hours).
  • Consider transportation needs and options for families seeking services.
  • Use service coordination services to help families gain access to needed community-based services such as Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, and Children's Medical Services, in order to eliminate financial barriers.
A family-centered approach provides family members with control over their own lives. Parents who have children with special needs often feel that they have little or no choice about when appointments are made, which providers they see, or what services they receive. In a system that is family-centered, the family is the driving force of service delivery. All disciplines come together with the family to develop a comprehensive plan that addresses the concerns, resources, and priorities of the family.