National Home Visiting Summit Hosts Its First Ever Presentation on Parents with I/DD by the Georgetown UCEDD

March 10, 2021

During the last week in February, the Georgetown University Parenting Support Program (PSP), a DC Health-funded home visiting program under the UCEDD umbrella, gave a groundbreaking presentation at the National Home Visiting Summit. It was the first presentation about home visiting services tailored to address the needs of parents identified as having intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) ever at this Summit.

The presentation was titled, "Supporting Parents with Intellectual Disabilities: The Evidence, Current Practice & Lessons Learned," and was presented by current and former project staff Oluwatosin "Tosin" Ajisope, Rachel Brady, Wendy Jones-Whitty, and Clarissa "Clare" Williamson. 

The presentation used an interview style with Tosin as the interviewer. Rachel shared information about what she learned from her review of the literature on home visiting approaches used with parents with I/DD, including task analysis, modeling, feedback, and reinforcement. Wendy discussed how PSP supports and serves the individual needs of each parent, the values that guide their work, adaptations made to evidence-based curricula used, and the kinds of supports that parents request and receive. Clare discussed lessons learned from her work with families both before and during the pandemic and shared what the parents thought was most important to them and for their children.

Parents with I/DD supported by the Parenting Support Program are pregnant and/or have children up to five years old. Services and supports in this project are designed to accommodate the learning styles and support preferences and needs of parents with I/DD.

Parent skills, training, and education is planned with the parents. These can focus on health, wellness and safety, parent-child interaction, nutrition, problem solving, behavior management, and much more. Before the pandemic, family visits took place in the home. Later, they transitioned to virtual visits, using Zoom and other technologies and telephone calls.

The PSP serves parents with I/DD in Washington, DC, who are mostly African Americans and, some, Latinas. These parents are low-income, and face a number of challenges, including having to navigate multiple service agencies for themselves and their children and social isolation. The pandemic further exacerbated underlying issues of inequity in access to technology and connectivity.

Bringing attention to families headed by an individual with I/DD is crucial. Too often, parents with I/DD are referred to local child protection agencies, and face negative determinations based solely upon the parent's disability, without the benefit of assessment of the parent's actual parenting skills. Presentations at a national level, like this one at the National Home Visiting Summit, are one way to educate others in the home visiting and early childhood fields about the presence, capacity, and ways to support people with I/DD.

A major take away PSP shared with the audience is that using a family-centered approach is the best way to support parental and family functioning, while fostering independence and increasing knowledge and parenting skills.

For more information, please contact Wendy Jones.