Addressing the Issues: Data Collection in Early Intervention
In a recent post, I mentioned that data collection in our county has changed. As a result, readers have also started writing in to share their own experiences.
One reader's comment from New York read, "We have to keep a calendar at the home where each service writes down an activity that the family has to do and write a plus or minus sign and a comment on why it worked or did not work....The service coordinator will collect it at the end of the month". This reader also mentioned that she was not sure if the family would take the time to fill out the calendar along with the service providers.
I use this illustration because it exemplifies what my own situation has become over the last several months. For the last two to three years that I have been working in EI, the emphasis placed upon data collection was minimal. I'm not saying that this was ok; however it was the reality. We were required to write our therapy note at the end of every session, which includes the following information: date/time of session, child's name, goals/objectives addressed, a summary of the session in paragraph form, suggestions for parent carry-over, parent concerns, therapist prep for the following week, the date/time/place of next session and both therapist and parent/guardian must sign the form.
Our therapy note does not lend itself to charts, grids, measurements and numbers.
In the past, our "clinical judgment" and recommendations based on weeks of one-on-one therapy sessions were enough to increase service frequency and/or recommend an additional service. However, during recent months, all of this has changed. Now, we need hard data with numbers and percentages to back everything we say; however our paperwork has not changed. The form layout is the same, so the challenge is how to keep effective numbers and notes without taking time away from the children.
What we have started to do with several children is leave a notebook in the home. As a team, we created a chart where each goal is documented and each time we treat, we record the progress. So far, so good! The families have not been participating in the documentation, despite our gentle encouragement; however I have to admit that I now feel better prepared for upcoming annual reviews.
I would like to be clear that I am not criticizing the new emphasis on numerical data. I recognize the importance and understand the necessity. My critique is simply that if data collection needed to change, then therapists should have be trained on exactly what the county now wants and requires. In addition, it may have been wise to change the physical layout of our therapy notes. Long term, it would save extra time for treatment, extra money for the county, and a great deal of uncertainty and frustration on the part of the service providers and families.
I welcome your comments and experiences. Please share how your data collection is handled in your county and whether or not you feel it is effectively working for both therapists and families!