I’ve had a question about the phrase ‘early intervention’ in regards to the post I made last night. And it was specifically about the word intervention.
When we intervene we are getting in there to fix and change something and you know… And you know I have been a therapist for many, (many, many years) and I have written thousands of goals for children with the words early intervention in them. So you know, I worked within this framework for a long, long, time. Until I’ve only more recently, really worked out how and what aligns with me within the paradigm of supporting childrens needs.
The word intervention, to intervene it’s like get in there, stop something in its tracks and change the course or alter the way it’s moving forward. To intervene means to step in, stop whatever’s going on and change the course of it.
I have totally used the words Early Intervention. And whenever I use these words there’s always a goal or an expectation or an expected outcome. Like an achievement that we are aiming for, attached to it. Because by the very meaning of the word intervention, which is like to step in and change the course of whatever is going on. There needs to be some kind of, well this is what we don’t want, and this is what we do want. So there’s an outcome attached.
However when we have a goal or an outcome in mind that we are seeking to support children to meet. Then we are trying to essentially change, fix, improve. We are trying to get children to meet some sort of external expectation that we have as therapists or that the school has or the parents have. Or that somebody else has and then it really diminishes our capacity to support our children where they are in this moment. And celebrate who they are in this moment.
I prefer, I really much prefer the word support. Early support, early supports great. That means as soon as we recognise our children have support needs we can be there, supporting them from as soon as we recognise it.
It doesn’t mean we’re intervening to try and change anything, we are supporting.
Often we think about intervention we are talking about behavioural or external outcomes. Things that we can see, so there might be an outcome to make eye contact, there might be an outcome to socialise in a way that we want them to socialise. There might be an outcome in that they will do this and they will do that. Whatever it is. It’s often an external thing that we can see.
When we talk about support, we’re are often referring to internal support. So we are creating an environment of safety, helping support regulatory needs. We are co-regulating with our clients or our children. And when we work from the bottom up, when we really support the internal needs. Because remember Autism and Neurodiversity is an internal thing. It’s not a behavioural disorder, it’s not a social disorder, it’s a neurotype. It’s an internal thing! It’s inside! It’s how our brain works, so it stands to reason that it is an internal support that will allow our children’s brain/body/nervous system etc to regulate to its own best.
Don’t get me wrong, these terms aren’t mutually exclusive to an internal or an external type thing but the language is so important. Language perpetuates our cultural understanding around who we are, who our children are and how we can support them.
And just by the very definition of the words intervene vs support, we have completely different imagery. And we have a completely different feel around what’s happening and those kinds of nuances can completely shape the cultural understanding.
Now I’m totally not saying anyone is doing anything wrong. If you are a therapist, who works in early intervention and if you are a family who is seeking early intervention for your child. I totally never judge what anyone else is doing. I have made a decision not to do it, and I have not used the words early intervention or set goals or outcomes for years. And I won’t do it again, and for my own children, I seek support that is around helping expand their own sense of self-awareness. Their own ability to self regulate, and to develop the confidence they need to be the person they need to be to have autonomy over their own development. However, that looks for them.
Clinics, Dr’s, schools, parents, organisations, ‘the system’ etc often want (or demand) tangible ‘outcomes’ to show improvements to justify the efficacy of it all and because of the funding. Hence the whole early intervention movement. (Remember it’s the systems that are broken, not the children)
We often mistakenly perceive external behavioural changes to mean our children are ‘doing better’, which is definitely not always the case.
For many, one of the brains, key survival mode strategies is to Fawn – people please, mask, do what we believe is expected, say yes, get it right, etc for fear of the ramifications of not. Often the underlying need can remain unsupported even though our children appear to be ‘making progress’ (ew. Sorry for the gross words – just trying to get the point across).
And finally, I feel we have our wires crossed around what support needs are and what needs to be supported. And when we truly understand neurodiversity, truly understand that a neurodivergent brain is part of the normal human population of how the brains are. Neurodivergence and a neurodivergent brain is not something that needs to be treated or managed so that it can be more like a neurotypical brain. Absolutely not, can you imagine if we all started writing care plans and goals and outcomes to try and get neurotypical people to be more like autistic people? That just doesn’t make sense. None of it makes sense.
When we believe that we are, and when we believe that our children are whole enough exactly as they are, we will stop needing to intervene.
We will support – oh yes! We will support anxiety and dysregulation and create space for autonomy, compassion, being heard and seen. Self-expression in whichever way that might look, but we will no longer seek to intervene in the same way society tells us we should right now.
It is so ingrained into us that early intervention is the way to go that we have no idea we are choosing the expectations of ‘The Systems” over the actualisation of our children.
For the original post that brought me to discuss this topic – https://www.instagram.com/p/CEmAu76nocf/
To view the full video head to the Story Highlights on Instagram and find the one titled Early Intervention – https://www.instagram.com/allisondavies.com.au/
Video can be found in full here also – https://youtu.be/H2jawtf8T-M