Early Childhood Intervention (ECI): Establishing Relationships with Families

Authors: Nicole Wood, TSVI/COMS, North East ISD, San Antonio, Texas

Keywords: Early Childhood Intervention, ECI, home visits, family support, establishing rapport, foundational skills

Abstract: Nicole Wood, a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TSVI), describes ways to establish effective relationships with the families of children with visual impairments under the age of three.

First Visit With the Family

The first visit with a family is typically focused on evaluation of the child’s present levels of visual functioning, orientation and mobility skills, as well as other areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC). It is important to establish a connection with the child at that visit to show parents that you are comfortable with their child, even those who are medically fragile or have complex needs. Let the family know that this visit is an initial evaluation. Come prepared as the “expert” in visual impairments with the understanding that the family is actually the expert with their child. Respect the family’s input and show empathy as they express their fears and dreams for their child. Flexibility is key during this visit. Even though you have a plan for how the evaluation should go, always follow the child’s lead when interacting with them. You may need to completely throw out your plan and go in a different direction. 

On-going Visits

Focus on the small steps needed to work towards the family’s goals for their child. Many parents don’t know what those steps are and so can’t verbalize them to you. Never think that their goals for the child are unachievable. For example, If the parent is asking about braille instruction for their 2-year-old child, it is important to take the time to explain the foundational skills needed for future literacy. Model and encourage activities that support that goal. Continue to show the families that you care about their child. Establish a “hello” ritual when you arrive, such as a song that you sing to the child on every visit along with a goodbye routine. Ask the parents about what new things are happening (a doctor visit, a special event) and discuss the skills the family has worked on with their child. Always point out progress, even if it is incremental. Take good notes! Use an ongoing assessment tool such as the Oregon Project Skills Assessment to help guide you and the family. 

Working with families of young children is exciting! Children show the most growth from ages 0-5. Parents grow too! You have an opportunity to have a positive impact on the whole family. Parents may be grieving, exhausted, or feeling hopeless. You can let them know it is okay to feel that way and help them understand that their child’s skills will happen given time. Creating relationships with the family is so important! Families may see you more frequently than their own family. You become part of the family and a source of real support and hope.


  • Show that you are comfortable being with their child.
  • Be encouraging of the family and their child.
  • Follow the child’s cues.
  • Communicate respect for the family and their long-term goals. 
  • Look beyond doctor’s notes. Develop your own opinions about the child.
  • Remember that every child and every family is different and individualize your service.
  • Be flexible!


  • Display a lack of confidence or knowledge about vision impairments. If you don’t know, find out, and get back with the parents quickly.
  • Show frustration at any visit.
  • Ignore parent’s concerns or dismiss their long-term goals.
  • Fail to establish a relationship with the child and the family.

    A Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments sits on the floor with a young student. Both of them have huge smiles on their faces.

    Nicole and one of her ECI students

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