My Experience Working in a Home-Based Early Childhood Education Program: A Collaborative Learning Model for Multidisciplinary Teams Working in Early Childhood Education
Janine Sorley, University of Calgary, Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies, Calgary, Canada
Email: Janine Sorley
As a fourth year student in the Community Rehabilitation and Disability undergraduate program at the University of Calgary, I am currently in the process of completing the second half of two linked, one hundred and thirty hour senior practicums. This is a project-based practicum focussed on developing leadership skills in community practice by working within organizations at the administrative level. For my practicum, I have been placed at an organization that provides families of preschool aged children who have moderate to severe disabilities with home-based integrated education and therapy services based on the child’s individual needs. Each child is provided with a team of professionals which consists of a developmental specialist, therapy team, and certificated teacher. Through this experience, I have had the chance to work within a multidisciplinary team comprised of a range of individuals from different professional backgrounds and have both observed and facilitated how they come together to provide these children with the best quality of care and services in order to allow them to smoothly transition into kindergarten. Both from observing how this program is run, as well as through working with staff to develop a picture communication system, I discovered a model for other multidisciplinary organizations that I believe will allow them to provide their clients with the best care and services possible.
Collaborative Learning Model for Multidisciplinary Teams
Much of the literature that exists today regarding the effectiveness of multidisciplinary actions of an organization address some of the characteristics that were observable at my practicum placement; however, none of them fully encompassed the uniqueness of their collaborative efforts which I believe plays a large role in the success of their program. More specifically, I think that other articles on this topic have failed to recognize the importance of collaborative practice among professionals of different disciplines. In their article, Ekland Nilsen and Jensen (2012) urge the importance of cooperation across domains (medical and educational) to create and coordinate an individual plan for children. They do not however, suggest ways in which these professionals should go about implementing these plans. Cameron and Tveit (2017) also talk about the importance of having expertise from multiple disciplines when it comes to creating good outcomes in early childhood education for children with disabilities; moreover, they emphasise that it is important for professionals in a collaborative team to update each other on the child’s progress in their specific domain. Again, the model presented is collaborative up until it comes to implementing skills and practices across the different disciplines involved.
Clearly, the literature that exists today understands that taking a multidisciplinary approach can allow professionals to work together to holistically understand a child’s situation and come up with a plan to address their unique needs; however, there is clearly a gap that exists when it comes to how multidisciplinary teams can go about holistically implementing practices that may not necessarily fall under their own area of expertise. In order to address this gap, the organization that I am placed at ensures that there are an abundance of opportunities for professionals to meet and learn from one another so that whether the child is at home, in their preschool, or at a therapy session, all of the professionals involved in the child’s development are able to incorporate skills and practices that address the child’s needs in every area of development. Professionals at the organization are given multiple opportunities to share their knowledge with staff in other disciplines in order to help provide them with effective skills that they can incorporate into their practices; this allows them to help promote growth in multiple areas rather than solely in their own area of expertise. Staff are also given opportunities to share their experiences and ideas with staff in their own discipline in order to help promote the sharing of new ideas and perspectives within disciplines in addition to across them. The communication project that I have been working on looks to bridge the gap between disciplines by opening up the opportunity for professionals who work outside of the area of speech development to incorporate the use of picture communication boards into their practice. By working with professionals from various disciplines to create communication boards that contain topics that are useful for all professionals to use, children can work on their communication goals while simultaneously working on goals that are specific to other disciplines involved in their development.
As suggested by the generalist theory in social work, having a small amount of knowledge in every applicable discipline can help professionals make the most informed decisions when it comes to providing their clients with the best care and services for their needs (Williams, 2016). By taking a collaborative learning approach and making an effort to share and learn about the different disciplines involved in a multidisciplinary team, professionals can work to incorporate skills and practices from other disciplines into their sessions allowing the child to reach all of their developmental goals more efficiently and effectively.
To conclude, by creating an environment where interaction and, more specifically, teaching across disciplines is not only possible but encouraged, we can work to create not only better outcomes for our clients but also help create more versatile and well-rounded professionals. Instilling basic knowledge of skills and practices from all disciplines in our professionals can allow them to provide clients with a more holistic care that addresses their needs both more efficiently and effectively.
Cameron, D., & Tveit, A. (2017). ‘You know that collaboration works when … ’ identifying the features of successful collaboration on behalf of children with disabilities in early childhood education and care. Early Child Development and Care, 1-14. Retrieved from https://www-tandfonline-com.ezproxy.lib.ucalgary.ca/doi/abs/10.1080/03004430.2017.1371703
Eklund Nilsen, A., & Jensen, H. (2012). Cooperation and coordination around children with individual plans. Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research, 14(1), 1-14. Retrieved from http://web.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.lib.ucalgary.ca/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=1&sid=2d5b6192-3edb-4318-a5d5-070a29dca86e%40sdc-v-sessmgr05
Williams, D. (2016). The Future of Effective Social Work Practice: Broadening Multidisciplinary Collaboration and Increasing Flexibility. Social Work, 61(4), 363-365. Retrieved from https://academic-oup-com.ezproxy.lib.ucalgary.ca/sw/article/61/4/363/2427321
Author Biographical Notes
Janine Sorley studies Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies at the University of Calgary, and is passionate about the full inclusion children with varying abilities in society.
International Journal of Disability, Community &
Student Perspectives 2019