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Early intervention (EI) is the process of delivering services and support to children from birth to three years old and their families who may have or be at risk for a developmental delay, disability, or health condition that may affect development. The purpose of EI is to reduce the impact of a disability or delay by addressing identified needs of young children across five developmental areas: cognitive development, communication development, physical development, including vision and hearing; social or emotional development and adaptive development. These services are focused on being family-centered and usually take place in the home setting. Even so, fathers, both custodial and noncustodial, are often left behind.

"Father's roles in EI can vary just as much as they generally do across families and amongst different cultures. Some dads are more hands-on than others; others see themselves in support roles with the mother serving as the primary caregiver. The father's role may be affected by his parenting beliefs, cultural values, understanding of the child's delay or disability, concerns for the child's future, or his thoughts on how to support his family," says Amy Spawn, CEO of The Warren Center. "All of these issues and more impact the role of fathers in early intervention. Dads interact with their children differently than moms, but both parents are essential in making early intervention work."

There are many ways that dads parent differently from moms, including being more physically active with their children. This presents therapists with opportunities to develop activities that help dads, and their children practice gross motor skills, regulate their sensory and nervous systems and practice healthy risk-taking. Dads also discipline differently, which presents experts' opportunities to develop treatments that help their children manage frustration. Dads are more likely to use humor and teasing to redirect behavior. Research also found that fathers' playfulness with their toddlers boosts their children's vocabulary skills in prekindergarten compared to mothers' playfulness related to children's emotion regulation. Dads are more likely to use more varied language and emphasize different vocabulary and ideas when reading aloud.

The amount and quality of father interactions with young children matter. More frequent and positive father involvement impacts children's social and emotional development and cognitive skills. Nonresident father involvement in child-related activities and positive father-child relationships are associated with children's social and emotional well-being, academic achievement, and behavioral adjustment. Studies also showed that increased father caregiving during infancy improves attachment between fathers and their babies, leading to higher IQ, a better sense of humor, and increased attention spans. Kids with engaged dads have better social, emotional skills and, as a result, fewer challenging behaviors.

Fathers can become more involved in the early intervention process by being included in all correspondence regarding therapy, finding appointment times that fit within their schedules, and being invited to participate in treatment. It's also helpful to provide dads with written resources and clear explanations of the activity they are being asked to do and how it relates to their children's goals. Early intervention experts must ask dads how they like to play with their kids to incorporate therapeutic tasks in that activity.

The Warren Center Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) program serves children, ages birth to three years old, with developmental delays or disabilities. The Warren Center's team of early childhood specialists, therapists, social workers, and other professionals conduct evaluations and provide services to children and their families at home where they live, learn and play. The Warren Center's team of highly skilled therapists is ready to help children with developmental delays and disabilities reach their full potential with early childhood intervention. To request services, parents are encouraged to fill out a form on the nonprofit's website or call 972-490-9055 to learn more about Early Childhood Intervention services.


About the Warren Center

The Warren Center is a nonprofit agency providing professional evaluations, therapy services and support to children with developmental delays and disabilities. The center serves over 1,000 children each week as well as their families. Services include speech, occupational and physical therapy; developmental services; and nutrition as well as family education and support. The Early Childhood Intervention Program serves the entire northern half of Dallas County in 48 ZIP codes. Founded in 1968, 2018 marked The Warren Center’s 50th anniversary. For more information, please visit or follow The Warren Center on Facebook and Twitter.

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