Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Therapy vs. Intervention

Today, let's talk about two words:  therapy and intervention.  Typically, these words are used interchangeably.  However, in early intervention these two terms should have distinct and different meanings.

Understanding the difference between therapy and intervention is crucial for everyone involved in early intervention, including parents, caregivers and therapists. 

Therapy is the time the child spends in direct contact with the therapist each week.   Services are provided by the therapist.

Intervention is what occurs the rest of the time between therapy sessions.  The family and caregivers provide the intervention. 

When a young child receives speech-language therapy through the early intervention program, the goal of therapy should NOT be to teach the child how to talk, follow directions, point to body parts, etc.  The goal of therapy should be to provide the family with the competence and the confidence to help their child learn how to talk, follow directions, point to body parts, etc.

The focus of therapy in early intervention should be on caregiver education.  While therapists do need to spend some therapy time in direct contact with the child, they also need to spend thoughtful time consulting with and educating families and caregivers about what kind of intervention they can be focusing on until the next therapy session.  Therapists should avoid leaving homework per se, but rather provide specific, relevant suggestions that allow the family to incorporate strategies into their existing daily activities and routines (during bath time, during breakfast, when going for a walk, when riding in the car, etc). 

In early intervention, we do not use a medical model of service delivery (let me "fix" your child) but rather we use a developmental model that focuses on the entire family, not just the child with special needs. 

When a child is learning a new skill, he or she will have to practice that skill often in order for it to become established.  One hour per week of therapy is NOT often enough!  That is why the intervention piece (provided by the family) is so crucial!

Tid Bit of the Day:  Young children who receive early intervention services will make the most progress when the family is actively involved in the intervention process!

Happy Wednesday!!


  1. Hi Carrie,

    I attended one of your presentations a few years ago. I remember a diagram you presented to illustrate time spent in therapy vs family intervention time. I was wondering if you would share this diagram with me so I could use it to illustrate this point. (with appropriate credit given) . Thank-you
    Christine Stang

  2. Hi Cari! I have a question (if you still check this...).
    Would you or have you seen cases where both therapy and early intervention are used? They seem like two different worlds; both beneficial in their own regard.