What do you think of families having another trusted other as the outcome of early intervention? How do we work from a lens of curiosity?

Words are powerful! The language we use influences our thinking, creates clarity or confusion, and positions us to see strengths or deficits. We believe words can have a detrimental impact on families and children. We believe in examining the impact and influence of The Words We Use in the ECI field and considering new or different words. These replacement words may not come easily during these conversations, or at all. However, these conversations strive for a new or different language, one that is strengths-based and honors the power of families, to create programs and relationships between families and practitioners that are family rather than systems forward

Intervention, partnerships, help-giving, supports. What do these words convey? How do we shift the conversation from a professional lens to a family lens? In this audio recording, Carol, Kerry, and Bonnie kick off the Words We Use conversations by discussing the potential pitfalls of these words, lenses, and more. 

Here’s a description of Early Intervention that resulted from this conversation:

Parenting is a group effort.

Parents decide who to go to for what. Early Intervention can serve as another trusted other for parents. Families use early intervention to brainstorm ideas, share information, and be a sounding board around child development and any other family functions the family chooses to ask of early interventionists rather than their other resources.



Deborah and Christine reflected on the words that practitioners use when talking about families such as “wrangle, crazy and chaos” and the implications of how these words influence one’s mindset.

(Time: 15:57 minutes)


Ashley Cattaneo and Margie Brickley encourage us to use words that explicitly call out racism and how white supremacy hurts people of color. They push us to use language that humanizes people and build relationships with families and children as part of that humanity.

(Time: 10:09 minutes)


Serra Acar and Nikki Adams discuss words that bother and those they prefer, most particularly around privileging speaking English over other languages.

(Time: 9:25 minutes)


Based on Tim Moore’s work with families, he challenges us to consider the implications of the word “intervention.” From his experiences, parents have trouble with the word “because it implies, we are doing stuff to them instead of with them.” The discussion then turns to alternative language.

(Time: 5:48 minutes)

Franchesca Ho Sang and Anthony Chin Kee Hee discuss why the words rigorous, grit, and minority trouble them, as well as when terms are misunderstood. They advocate for making sure one’s language is clear and accessible to all.

(Time: 9:30 minutes)

January 2023: The world of early childhood intervention lost a valued voice. Talina Jones, mother of Tajee, was known as a parent advocate. However, Talina was so much more. She was the voice of those who were not given a voice. She took her space when no one offered her space. She was authentically, unapologetically herself. Talina was fierce in her honesty, calling out racism where she experienced it – with practitioners, administrators, systems, and policies. She was our friend, our accomplice, and our motivator. We miss Talina greatly at The Envelope and will miss the discussions we didn’t get to have. Our small honor at this time is to re-share those discussions we had with Talina. Please take some time to digest Talina’s words and, if she motivates you too, to take action.


Talina shares how her family describes the disability of family members in very different ways from professional labels; descriptions that illustrate the simplicity of embracing family members just as they are.

(Time: 8:14 minutes)



Talina Jones talks about the confusion that is often created when professionals ask families to tell them “what your family’s strengths are.”

(Time: 13:22 minutes)



In this conversation, Mary Louise Hemmeter talks about the problems with words associated with behavior such as “challenging” and “problem” behavior. She also discusses other ways to describe “teaching teachers.”

(Time: 6:28 minutes)


Hailey Love rejoins The Envelope to consider the limitations of the term “parent involvement,” dissecting how both “parent” and “involvement” exclude family and community as well as the multiple ways families engage in their child’s lives outside of developmental programs.

                        (Time: 11:14 minutes)

Janice Fialka asks us to pause and ponder on disability first language, its roots in ableism, and how disability rights advocates are shifting the conversation.

To dive deeper into Janice’s books, articles, and presentations, check out: http://www.danceofpartnership.com/

                       (Time: 9:30 minutes)


In this brief clip Sylvana Mahmic from Plumtree Early Childhood Intervention program in Australia asks us to think about the words that wellbeing language offers us – “I’ve got this!” 

                      (Time: 4:55 minutes)


In this conversation, Crispin Day suggests that language can become a preoccupation that interferes with communication. Crispin suggests that when we listen to the language of others and connect with the value they place on the words they use, it will aid communication.

                         (Time: 7:27 minutes)


In this selected clip from their Thought Provocations, Christine Hancock and Greg Cheatham discuss how, when making decisions about the strategies families might use, it’s not just about the words professionals use, but how they use them. 

(Time: 8:35 minutes)



Paul Prichard from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Australia challenges us to think about the language we use. What’s the impact when we describe families as ‘hard-to reach’ or label families and communities as ‘vulnerable’?

(Time: 6:48 minutes)


Catherine Corr and Kate Ellison discuss the terms “vulnerable families” and “families with multiple support services” and their impact on how professionals perceive and partner with families. They also discuss individual first language and who decides how one should be identified.

(Time: 6:42 minutes)



Shayla Collins and Maggie Beneke discuss the words poverty, risk, vulnerable, and disability and their historical, political, and capitalistic implications.

(Time: 7:32 minutes)


Beth Harry and Lydia Ocasio-Stoutenberg discuss the attitudes and beliefs behind the words we use, and the limitations of changing words without changing mindsets.

(Time: 11:03 minutes)