You as an EI professional bring important expertise to observing the family’s interactions, not the least of which are your observation skills. You also bring your expertise in infant/toddler development and strategies (responsive interactions and physical environment) that facilitate development.
Prepare to Observe Naturally
Before observing, there are a few things to make sure:
- Schedule your naturalistic observation when a couple of different types of interactions (e.g., casual, focused, one adult, multiple adults, siblings, no siblings) might be observed.
- Observe for at least 30 minutes. Families have indicated they want professionals to see a variety of times of day and days of the week. Video recordings can assist with capturing this diversity.
- Encourage the family to not change anything about how the interactions occur, including the presence of other children, family members, friends, or materials. This is important to do before you observe as the family may have already changed things by the time you arrive.
Remind the Family at Observation
When you arrive, you can remind the family…
We want to get a clear picture of many of the ways you help your child develop. To do this, I’ll observe as you participate in your everyday life. Please do what you normally do during this time. I’ll be watching and jotting down what I see. I’m going to be a “fly on the wall.” I won’t be participating and will try to stay out of what you and your family are doing. Don’t worry about explaining to me what’s occurring or why it’s occurring. We’ll talk about that later. You also don’t need to be continually interacting with your child. I know that’s the way everyday life usually occurs. If you need or want to do something, like answer the phone or the door, or get yourself a drink, that’s fine. You do whatever it is you usually do, how you usually do it.
Identify Developmental Strategies
Strategies include those adapted for the child’s individual characteristics or that intentionally teach a particular developmental outcome. Take care to include strategies that may appear “simple” or for “all” children. These are just as important to identify. Strategies that promote various aspects of child development are also identified, not just those related to any priorities the family might have already shared. You want to identify a wide range of strategies during the observation.
The Developmental Strategies Inventory (DSI) provides some examples of responsive caregiving and physical environment strategies. The DSI is NOT an exhaustive list. The more and more varied kinds of strategies you identify, the richer the conversation will be. Avoid identifying solely explicit teaching strategies or clearly adapted materials. Also, identify sensitivity and responsive strategies that we know are critical to child development, as well as “typical” physical strategies such as a sippy cup or positioning the high chair to face the parents.