Family-Centred Early Intervention for Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
What is Family Centred Early Intervention (FCEI)?
‘Family centredness’ as a philosophy of working to improve outcomes has been around for some seventy years, and in the early 1970s began to be acknowledged as being of particular importance in respect of early childhood intervention. Family Centred practice recognises the importance of the family for the child’s wellbeing (Bronfenbrenner, 1974) and has been defined as having three key underpinning elements: an emphasis on strengths rather than deficits; promotion of family choice and control over desired resources; and the development of collaborative relationships between families and professionals (Espe-Sherwindt, 2008)
Family Centred Early Intervention (FCEI) for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children and their Families
As a philosophy, Family Centred Early Intervention (FCEI) for deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) children and their families, recognizes that families are key in every aspect of newborn hearing detection and early intervention. FCEI focuses on each family’s values, culture, choices, and considerations that, in turn, drive systems, support, and practice.
As a field of study and practice, FCEI encompasses research and standards of practice that are oriented around the family with a baby or young child who is deaf or hard of hearing. In this context, FCEI is contrasted to child-centred early intervention, or practices that are clinically- or medically-centred.
FCEI International is a collaborative, multi-disciplinary, worldwide network of parents, families, professionals and researchers, both DHH and hearing, who are engaged in promoting and improving evidence-informed practice and research in FCEI. Its mission is to connect and support all those involved in early intervention with DHH children and their families in the collaborative process of sharing, learning, and developing the best research and evidence-informed practice. This informal global network grew over time from small beginnings, as a result of collaborations between professionals and parents, both hearing and deaf, from far and wide. In recent years, as the network has grown in global representation, it has expanded its worldwide focus.
The Evolution of FCEI International
Recognizing the importance of FCEI for DHH children and families, inspired by the impact of the Colorado Home Intervention programme (CHIP) in the US, and committed to international collaborations across Europe and beyond, Drs Daniel Holzinger and Johannes Fellinger from Austria were motivated to establish a conference to bring together parents and professionals, both hearing and deaf, to share their ideas, experience and expertise in family centred practice and research. The first International Congress on Family Centred Early Intervention for Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and their Families was held in Bad Ischl in the Austrian Salzkammergut in May 2012. The conference was a huge success, attracting more than 300 delegates from over 30 countries across the world, and further FCEI conferences have been held in Bad Ischl in 2014, 2016 and 2018. The global coronavirus pandemic led to the cancellation of the 2020 conference but planning is already advanced for 2022. In addition, successful FCEI conferences have been held in other areas of the world, such as FCEI Iran in 2016 and FCEI South Africa in 2017, and other countries are planning their own focused events for future years.
What does FCEI International do?
FCEI International supports four major efforts:
1. Consensus Statements
Following the inaugural conference, a diverse panel of experts including parents, deaf professionals, early intervention program leaders, clinicians, and researchers from ten nations convened for the purpose of coming to consensus on recommended practices to guide family-centred early intervention (FCEI) with children who are deaf or hard of hearing (DHH). The resulting document, ‘Best Practices in Family-Centred Early Intervention for Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: An International Consensus Statement’ (Moeller et al, 2013) was published in the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education the following year. The consensus statement has had significant global impact, to date being made available in eight different written languages and in American Sign Language.
In 2019, the process of reviewing and updating the FCEI Best Practice Consensus Principles began. Importantly, it has sought to incorporate increased input from those with lived experience, including the Deaf Leadership International Alliance (DLIA), and parent leaders from the Global Coalition of Parents of Deaf/Hard of Hearing Children (GPODHH), in addition to a diverse group of professional practitioners, program administrators and researchers. Together they form an Advisory Committee of over 50 members from all over the world. This extensive review process is ongoing and publication of the revised Consensus is envisaged in the coming year.
2. Research and Best Practice
FCEI International encourages practitioners, researchers and research networks to collaborate to increase evidence in early intervention for children who are DHH and their families. By virtue of reviewing and updating consensus statements, and engaging in multidisciplinary and global discussions, research gaps are identified. A goal of the FCEI International is to encourage practitioners, families and researchers from a variety of nations to collaborate in addressing current research gaps and in sharing evidence-informed practice.
3. An International Conference
The biennial ‘FCEI International’ conference which has been held since 2012 in Bad Ischl, Austria. This international conference was originally designed to bring hearing and D/deaf professionals and parents / parent leaders from across the world together to share and deepen understanding of the philosophy and practice of family-centred early intervention, and continues to promote those aims and values.
4. FCEI regional conferences
FCEI International encourages the organization of FCEI conferences sharing the same aims and values in different parts of the world.