Interacting and Observing Naturally
The family interacts with their child as they usually do. The EI professional observes those natural interactions.
Why interact and observe naturally?

To see all the various strategies the family uses to help their child learn.

To know HOW these strategies happen in the particular family. Future conversations can be about these specific ways, rather than generic strategies. For example, instead of the generic “doing or saying what your child did or said” future conversations can be about “clapping  after your child clapped” or “saying ‘ba-ba’ after your child did.”

To see how the child functions and develops when these strategies are used.

In this discussion, Kate and Stephen reflect on their experiences Interacting and Observing Naturally. They identify the essential practices to this approach and how they used the information they learned in their practice with families.

What makes interactions and observations “natural”?

Interactions are natural when the family goes about their everyday life as it regularly happens. This could mean the family sometimes steps away from interacting with their child to attend to something else because those moments happen naturally as families go about their day. The focus is on the interactions, so the interaction and observation can be any time of day when the family would like the EI professional to see what is happening. It does NOT need to be a specific routine or activity. It does NOT need to be a time when there is a concern. This is what makes the interaction natural.

The observation is natural when the EI professional is a “fly on the wall,” watching what is happening but not being involved in any way. The professional does NOT make suggestions, ask questions, or speak with any family member. The family and EI professional may want to video record interactions. For example, the family might feel the video recordings they make without the professional there would be more natural. Or, the family might want to share interactions that occur at a variety of times or days of the week so it’s easier to record than have the professional come multiple times.


What are We Looking For?

We (family and professional) are focusing on the interactions and ways the environment is used that the family may be using to help their child learn. These are considered strategies. Since at this point EI professionals do not know why a particular family is using a particular strategy, we are looking for all strategies. This means, the professional withholds their interpretations of whether or not the strategy is effective or for what reason the family is using the strategy. The professional does not, at this point, know the family’s intentions.

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Why Interact and Observe FIRST?

Families don’t always realize all the great strategies they’re using to help their child develop. They may think many “strategies” aren’t strategies at all; it’s just being a parent. Asking families what they do to help their child learn may not uncover those strategies. By interacting and observing first, those strategies are revealed. Those strategies are the jumping off point to have a conversation about the family’s intentions.


What MINDSET do families and professionals have to interact and observe naturally?

  • The professional role is to be a developmental support versus “fixing” the child or family.
  • The family is indeed helping their child learn and has particular strategies they may not realize.
  • The professional does not know why the family uses particular strategies at this point. Therefore, the professional notes ALL potential strategies, whether or not they think those strategies are effective.
  • The professional avoids judging strategy effectiveness altogether and suspends interpretation of strategies until the family’s reasons are learned.
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