It Takes a Village

by Aimee Herrera

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The most influential relationship in a young child’s life is his or her relationship with parents. These early experiences shape their developing brains and bodies and provide a secure emotional base to learn about the world. Recognizing the importance of family engagement, early intervention programs should partner with parents to create enriched and supportive learning environments.

Parents eagerly follow their child’s developmental milestones, from first smiles and first steps to first words and first days of school. Parents are also the first to report concern when their child struggles to meet those milestones and seek out the guidance of their pediatrician or other specialists to assess their child’s developmental needs. In some cases, children may require early intervention to bolster their physical, communication, intellectual or social development and guide parents on how to support those skills at home and in the community.

In light of the family’s central role in a child’s development, parent education and training programs offer a way for parents to learn how to implement interventions with their own children at home. Parent training programs have been shown to be effective in improving social communication skills and managing challenging behaviors for young children with autism. For example, in a recent study published in The Lancet, researchers found that children aged 2-4 who received parent-led interventions showed improved social communication skills and reduced repetitive behaviors.

Parent training offers parents a way to actively participate in their child’s learning and development within the context of their daily routines, activities and play. Below are examples of frequently used strategies for encouraging positive behaviors and teaching new skills:

  • Creating consistent routines – when we establish consistent routines, it helps children know what behaviors are expected and to anticipate major transitions throughout the day (e.g., use of visual schedules, timers, and verbal reminders of upcoming transitions)
  • Reward positive behavior – when your child engages in a positive behavior, like requesting or taking turns, reward that behavior by providing praise and responding contingently (e.g., “well done, here’s your milk”)
  • Prompting – when we want to teach a new skill, like how to play with a toy, we can model actions and language (e.g., rolling a car across the floor and saying “beep beep” or”vroom”)

Every child has their unique set of strengths and challenges. Our role as parents, families, teachers, and interventionists is to discover those strengths and challenges so we can create a nurturing, supportive environment where they can thrive. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, and parents are at the heart of it!

The Author

Aimee Herrera specializes in early intervention for infants & toddlers

Petra’s Place ( offers individual and group parent support training sessions;
to book please contact

Check out the links below for additional reading on parent education and training!


Parent training may lead to lasting gains in autism symptoms

Can parental training improve the course of autism?

Books for Parents

An Early Start for Your Child with Autism

Book for Professionals

Parent Training for Autism Spectrum Disorder

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