Family Strengths in
Constructing Learning Experiences

The approach shared in the Doing-Thinking-Feeling pages illustrate ways to assess, plan, and “intervene” that evolve how we, the Early Childhood Intervention (EI) field, view and utilize family strengths as the family defines them. It’s a way of working that fully honors not only the larger family culture and their routines, but also their everyday interactions in which child development unfolds. EI families and professionals can use these approaches as they are described on the Doing-Thinking-Feeling pages. They can consider ways to integrate them into their home visits and other partnership moments. We also developed a specific way to utilize these approaches, called the Family Strengths in Constructing Learning Experiences, or the FamSCLE.

The FamSCLE Story

Bonnie was doing a lot of professional development around “working from family strengths.” These discussions focused on recognizing families do indeed help their child learn and develop beyond those opportunities provided through EI. The question Bonnie grappled with was how to really understand those family strengths. One day, Bonnie’s aunt shared that her adult son with intellectual disabilities was having a hard time vacuuming all of the living room rug, frequently missing large swaths. Bonnie’s aunt then said she sprinkles powdered cleaner on the rug, which then gave her son the visual needed to successfully vacuum the entire rug. And there it was!  

So Bonnie and a doctoral student undertook a study (Keilty & Galvin, 2006) to really explore the specific learning strategies (i.e., “adaptations”) families used during their everyday routines – what they were, why they used them, how they figured them out, how effective they thought the strategies were, and the supports they perceived as helpful and the supports they perceived as still needed. When asking the families what they thought of the research findings – called “member checking” in qualitative research – some of the families wondered why no one in EI ever asked them these questions and suggested that it is really important for EI professionals to know the information they shared with us. Based on this feedback, we developed a way for EI professionals to do just that.

The FamSCLE Process

Bonnie and Carol present an overview of the FamSCLE approach as a way to move strengths-based practices forward. This video is comprised of selected sections from a larger presentation shared with practitioners at Noah’s Ark, the Early Intervention program where Stephen works. (Time: 33:51 minutes)

Learn More About the FamSCLE

Please contact us at for more information about the FamSCLE or to learn about professional development and research opportunities on the FamSCLE. In the meantime, check out these articles:

Perspectives of Families who Participated in a FamSCLE Pilot:

Keilty, B., Trivette, C., & Gillespie, J. (2022). Parent agency in promoting child learning: Family perceptions of focusing on family strengths during early childhood assessment and planning practices. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 1-16. doi: 10.1177/1476718X221083420

Assessment Approaches to Understand and Use Family Strengths:

Keilty, B. (2020). Assessing the home environment to promote infant-toddler learning within everyday family routines. Young Exceptional Children, 23(4) 199-211. doi: 10.1177/1096250619864076

How the FamSCLE Got Started:

Keilty, B., & Galvin, K. (2006). Physical and social adaptations families make to promote learning in everyday experiences. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 26(4) 219-233. doi: 10.1177/02711214060260040301