EI Talk: A Blog for Early
Childhood Professionals

The Parenting Support Program (PSP) and COVID 19: The Home Visitors Perspective

Clare Williamson July 15, 2020

The Parenting Support Program (PSP), a home visiting program specifically designed to meet the needs of women with intellectual or developmental disabilities and are either pregnant or parenting has a unique set of challenges. During COVID-19 some of these challenges were exacerbated as well as new unexpected ones arose.

As a home visitor who typically meets the parents in natural environments, finding new ways to communicate was perhaps the greatest challenge. Other challenges include connecting families with local resources, creating a safe space, and maintaining healthy rapport. To maintain rapport with the families a trusting relationship is necessary. For newly enrolled families building this trust remotely required me to be persistent and flexible meeting individual parent’s hesitations or reservations. In-person meetings, although not necessarily easy for home visitors, provides a physical connection that is often reassuring.

Due to limited resources, some families struggled with basic needs such as food, and other necessities. Thus my role expanded to helping families secure necessities and coach them in how to secure this independently. Community resources, especially in the several weeks were stretched thus supporting families to be persistent and flexible was needed.

A strength of the PSP is supporting parents to support their children’s developmentally needs. The lack of electronic devices and Wi-Fi connections creates added family stress. Many families’ used phones to access educational materials thus maintaining children’s engagement in their education/lessons was particularly difficult. According to parents I serve, children with Individualized Education Plans are having issues with implementing their needed services on a virtual platform. Most of the families I serve have children home full-time, which makes focusing on home visiting over a virtual platform even more difficult.

I’ve learned to be more creative with implementing curriculum, and engaging families in their child’s development. The use of visual aids such as large post-it sheets, to go over the contents of our lessons has help to maintain engagement. I’ve also learned to stay conscious of the mental stress and anxiety that comes along with social distancing. Being flexible and willing to adjust planned topics is a huge part of my role during this transition. Social distancing is difficult, and has taught me to always make sure I’m emotionally available for the families I serve. Patience with families has also played a part in how I communicate and build their parental confidence. Considering the added stress put on families, I don’t take missing scheduled visits or calls personally.

Something that hasn’t changed is my motivation to empower and build the confidence of parents with intellectual disabilities.

Clare Williamson
Home Visitor,
Parenting Support Program

Read More

The Parenting Support Program (PSP) and COVID 19: Programmatic Perspective

Wendy Jones, M.Ed., MSW July 01, 2020

The Parenting Support Program (PSP) is a home visiting program intended to meet the unique educational and support needs of pregnant/parenting adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities with children up to kindergarten or 5 years of age. The PSP uses a variety of strategies to connect with families via personal visits conducted in their homes, and within the community. PSP uses a Promising Practice approach and adapts two evidence-based curricula to meet the unique cognitive, adaptive, and learning styles of each family. The program delivers a set of screenings used to assess parent and child interaction, child development, and parental health and well-being. Home visitors collaborate with families to develop comprehensive individualized family education plans that foster knowledge and skills development. The program provides resources and linkages to community based supports and services to support the preference and needs and overall well-being of the family. The ultimate goal of the PSP is to assist families to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to navigate systems independently and with confidence.

From a programmatic perspective, during COVID-19, PSP moved from on site, in-person visits to remote, telephonic and virtual visits to ensure continuation of services. At the start of the pandemic, in-person enrollment continued. However, over time, enrollment was modified to include drop-off of pertinent forms, with telephonic, video or recorded consent, and photo emailing of signed forms. While practicing remotely, the program continued to provide family supports including, but not limited to, participation in IEP meetings, telehealth visits, multidisciplinary conference calls, and supervised video visits; support with filing of on-line court documents and related requests for waiver of court fees, and recertification for social service benefits.

During the pandemic, the program embarked upon a quality assurance activity to determine the impact of COVID-19 on families, and any unmet needs that PSP could address. Enrolled families received email invitations with electronic consent forms. The program modified the consent process as described above with the addition of reading the form with parents to ensure understanding, recording verbal consent, and asking for a photo version of the consent to be emailed to the program.

Home Visitors reported the following challenges:

  • Technology- some families did not have access to computers, tablets, or in home Wi-Fi to support the use of Zoom for virtual meetings as recommended by national home visiting programs. To address this issue home visitors asked parents to identify their preferred way to meet virtually. Parents identified FaceTime, Google Duo, Messenger, and use of the telephone. Also, electronic devices were not always available for parents to meet remotely because of competing demands for electronic devices as children were home and needing to complete school work. To address this issue evening hour virtual visits became a practice.
  • Stress- home visitors noticed an increase in families stress levels due to food insecurity, children being in the home for longer periods, parents taking on the additional role of teacher, and balancing the effects of social isolation. In response to these observations, the home visitor made referrals to food banks and food distribution centers; supported parents with structuring days with routines/schedules; did arts and crafts drop offs; and added mindfulness activities.
  • Curriculum- due to inability to use standard training resources and handouts, parents were unable to access the curricula as they would with in person visits. To address this issue, a home visitor became creative by using additional visual aids, and transposing key curricula content onto oversized Post-it-Notes, to facilitate learning. Emailing families links to videos and related content, as well as dropping off printed resources became the new program norm.

The Parenting Support Program is a unique, family-centered home-visiting program designed to meet the needs of parents with intellectual and or other developmental disabilities. During this time of great upheaval, the program has become acutely aware that services need to expand to helping families identify and secure additional social services. We recognized early that our priority of providing developmental support required us to look more broadly at family needs and help them secure a variety of supports.

Wendy Jones, M.Ed., MSW
Program Director, PSP

Read More

The Impact of COVID-19 School Closures on Children with Disabilities

Danielle Shapiro (College’20) April 06, 2020

When Georgetown University announced that all classes would move to remote, online methodologies on March 13, it felt as if the world was ending for most of us Hoyas. Being a second semester senior, these last two months of school were meant for us to make final memories with our friends before heading out into the “real world.” If you asked me about the situation two weeks ago, I would have said that seniors in college got the worst of the school closure scenario. Our graduation and celebrations were cancelled and our young adult days ended in a blink of an eye. However, as I reanalyze the quarantine these past two weeks, I realize how lucky I am to have had 16.75 years of education in the classroom. As a senior in college I am capable to log onto online lectures and teach myself concepts from a textbook. Even if this was not the case, losing my last two months of my education would not make a significant difference in my development or future success. This is not the case for elementary school students that are in the middle of their foundational years.

Public and private primary and secondary schools across the country have shut down and switched to remote learning due to the coronavirus outbreak. In California, schools are required to provide “high quality education opportunities” but only “to the extent feasible” (Harrington, 2020). Although teachers are connecting with their students online and sending families learning packets, this does not equate to the same learning done in the classroom and parents are now feel the pressure to teach their children the curriculum. This is especially difficult for working parents or parents with multiple young children. How can a parent teach their first grade child how to read while also teach their third grader multiplication and work from home? A child in primary school requires hands-on teaching. A parent juggling five other responsibilities cannot provide their child with the adequate teaching that their child needs to succeed, resulting in their child falling behind in school.

Children with disabilities and their families face even greater pressures with the school closures. If schools stop providing educational services to the general student population, then they are not required to provide services to students with disabilities during that same period. If schools continue to provide educational opportunities to the general student population, the schools must ensure that students with disabilities also receive free appropriate public education (FAPE) to the greatest extent that it is possible (Question and Answers, 2020). However, it is nearly impossible to provide all students with disabilities the services they require from home. Special education instructors, behaviorists, and speech and language therapists, among others specialists, will not be able to work directly with students for the foreseeable future, which may interfere with the child’s progress or attainment of IEP outcomes. Additionally, schools have provided little or no instruction on how parents or teachers of students with disabilities should proceed with teaching (Levine, 2020).

During this period, no student will be receiving the education that they deserve, but school districts must still do their best to make learning also accessible to all students with disabilities. Because special education services are often put to the side, parents must hold their children’s schools and school districts accountable. Initially, parents should try to be patient with therapists and instructors because this new learning environment is an adjustment for everyone. After that, parents should ensure that the school provides them with a remote education plan, and they should track if their child is following the progression of their individualized education plan. If the child is regressing, parents will have a stronger case to receive more support when school reopens. Lastly, parents should also track the type and frequency of special-needs services that their child is receiving because the child will still be entitled to the services they missed once schools reopen (Levine, 2020).

Our current situation is extremely stressful and uncertain for everyone, but providing all children with the best education possible must be at the top of our priorities. It is essential that schools, teachers, and parents work together and communicate so that children are still given the opportunity to grow and learn during this time. The quality of a child’s education can impact the rest of their lives. We cannot let these school closures contribute to children’s failures.


Harrington, T. (2020, April 5). What California parents and students should know about the coronavirus: a quick guide. Retrieved from https://edsource.org/2020/coro...

Levine, H. (2020, March 31). Parents and Schools Are Struggling to Care for Kids With Special Needs. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/0...

Questions and Answers on Providing Services to Children with Disabilities During the Coronavirus Disease 2019. (2020, March). Retrieved from https://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/qa-covid-19-03-12-2020.pdf

Read More

Innovation Showcase

Early Childhood Education Development and Learning:
8th Annual ED Games EXPO

Nadia Ferranti (NIAF Fulbright Scholar, 2020) February 25, 2020

The Administration on Children and Families, Office of Early Childhood Development sponsored the 2020 Showcase on Innovation in Early Childhood Development and Learning at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington DC. This is an annual meeting where classroom teachers, university professors, engineers, throughout the US and government officials from the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services convene to discuss innovation in early childhood education.

The showcase began with the welcome from Lynn Johnson from the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families and Aimee Viana, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, in the Department of Education. A panel discussion with ACF leadership followed, moderated by Melissa Brodowski, Deputy Director, Office of Early Childhood Development (ECD).

The panel shared information in three areas:

  • What is innovation?
  • How can we consider the role of innovation in our schools?
  • How can we promote innovation?

The common vision is that innovation is a key element of education in the 21st century, especially early childhood education. Innovation means keeping abreast of new developments, understanding social change, and responding quickly with meaningful, successful strategies at the right time in a way that all students can use. Innovation is not just about technology; it is creating real answers and evidenced-based solutions to real situations. It also means sharing professional development, increasing the quality of the interaction between teachers and students and support parents in involving them in their children’s school life. Prevention is also part of the Innovation; anticipating consequences and the array of scenarios that can emerge. In other words taking the long view. Facts and their consequences must be taken into account now with a longer temporal view. The speakers' “big ideas” were discussed interactively with the showcase participants, focusing on current and future innovations that can be put into practice in early childhood.

A variety of innovative educational resources were displayed and demonstrated that can be incorporated into early childhood programs. These innovative projects and tools are mainly digital kits and technological experiences designed to improve children’s learning in different fields. For example, “MathBIRX” is a digital platform that contains learning and challenging activities for children aged 4-8. There are different games linked to curriculum standards, allowing students to consider the same concepts in multiple ways. “MathBIRX” doesn't just help children learn math, it teaches them to think mathematically because it is based on a constructivist model of “learning by doing”.

Another great example of an innovative tool for kids and educators is called “Choosy Kids”. Choosy Kids promotes health and well-being habits as an integral component of school readiness. Choosy Kids includes numerous practice-based projects and interventions that increase the number of physical activities during daily school routines, improve the quality of structured movement experiences to enhance sensory processing and provide social interaction and cooperation. Furthermore, it utilizes music and songs purposely composed to develop and strengthen brain networks.

ED GAMES EXPO is offered annually to showcase government supported educational learning games and technologies. The EXPO is open to the public.

  • Click here for the "Guide to Educational Learning Games and Technologies," a document that provides details and video demonstrations on the technologies that were exhibited at the 2020 ED Games Expo
  • Click here for the "Activity Guide," a resource to engage and prepare children and students who attended the 2020 ED Games Expo

Nadia Ferranti (NIAF Fulbright Scholar, 2020)

Read More

Recent Posts

Engaging Families

Velma Bakarr (GUCEI’22) April 11, 2022

Parents with Intellectual and Other Developmental Disabilities (IDD)

Anna Missner (GU ’22), Anna Zdunek (GU ’22), Kat Bouker (GU ’24), Katherine DeMatteo (GU ’22), Annie Foley (GU ’22), Wegahta Habtemichael (GU’ 22) March 15, 2022

Barriers to Widespread International Adoption of Inclusive Education

Sophia Nunn (GU’21), Nick Young (GU ’21), Daria Arzy (GU ’21), Jeewon Eom (GU ’22), Jennifer Guo (GU ’23) , and Abigail Ludwigson (GU ’21) February 15, 2022

Accessibility to Mental Health Services for Children: How Can We Improve?

Pham January 24, 2022

Covid-19 and Child Development

Jennifer Guo December 21, 2021

Hiding in Plain Sight: Females with ASD

Anna Missner (GU ’22) October 25, 2021

COVID-19’s Impact on Special Education

Anny Angel (GU ’21), Bella Carlucci (GU ’23), Sela Dragich (GU ’21), Jonathan Kay (GU ’21), Hannan Moallin (GU ’22), & Taylor Villante (GU ‘21) October 04, 2021

Disability: A Reflection

Jonathan Kay (GU ’21) July 15, 2021

Minority Representation in Special Education: Untangling A Decades-Old Debate

Abigail Boateng (GU ‘), Anjanae Chandran (GU ’22), Devon Lawrence (GU ‘), Kelsey Ransom (GU ’24), Abigail Taye (GU ’21), Clare Westerman (GU ’23) July 01, 2021

Equity in Education: How UDL Fosters an Accessible Learning Environment for All

Jillian Archer (GU ’24), Rebecca Bullied (GU ’21), Caroline Fisher (GU ’21), Daniela Mateo (GU ’23), Megan McCrady (GU ’21), Quynh Pham (GU ’22) June 15, 2021