Birth to Three

The Birth to Three system is created by federal legislation known as the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Part C of IDEA is the Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities.  This is a federal program that assists states in operating a comprehensive statewide program of early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities, ages birth up to age 3, and their families.

The mission of the Connecticut Birth to Three system is to strengthen the capacity of Connecticut’s families to meet the developmental and health-related needs of their infants and toddlers who have delays or disabilities.

As determined by a national task force, the mission of Part C is to assist families and caregivers to enhance children’s learning and development through everyday learning opportunities.  Key principles for providing Early Intervention services expand on the mission and include best practices for supporting families.

Key Principles

  1. Infants and toddlers learn best through everyday experiences and interactions with familiar people in familiar contexts.
  2. All families, with the necessary supports and resources, can enhance their children’s learning and development.
  3. The primary role of a service provider in early intervention is to work with and support family members and caregivers in children’s lives.
  4. The early intervention process, from initial contacts through transition, must be dynamic and individualized to reflect the child’s and family members’ preferences, learning styles and cultural beliefs.
  5. IFSP outcomes must be functional and based on children’s and families’ needs and family-identified priorities.
  6. The family’s priorities, needs and interests are addressed most appropriately by a primary provider who represents and receives team and community support.
  7. Interventions with young children and family members must be based on explicit principles, validated practices, best available research, and relevant laws and regulations.

Birth to Three Practices

Natural Learning Environment Practices

Natural environments are more than places where children live, learn, and play. Natural learning environment practices start with looking at the activities children participate in during their everyday life at home and in the community.  These everyday activities provide learning opportunities which, in turn, lead to increased participation and skill development for the child. Researchers in the field of early childhood have identified that children learn best when they are participating in these naturally occurring learning opportunities that are a part of everyday routines and activities within the real life of their families and other children they know.

Birth to Three focuses on supporting the family’s confidence and competence in their ability to provide opportunities in their everyday activities for their child to learn and develop. Many learning opportunities occur during routine activities in the home, such as: eating, reading stories, playing with siblings, taking a bath, folding laundry.  Other learning opportunities occur in the community, such as: going to the playground, going grocery shopping, going to playgroups and story hours, participating in church activities, and during attendance at childcare centers.  While there are activities common to many families, every child, family, and community is unique. What is a natural part of one family’s routine may never happen in another family. Even when the same routine activity is identified by two families, what occurs during the activity will look different for each family. These natural learning environments represent each family’s individual culture, family functions, and family priorities.

Natural learning environment practices should be the focus throughout all services and supports for the family including:

  • the very first contacts with families when explaining Birth to Three practices and the role of the family
  • the initial assessment when involving the family in sharing the child’s unique abilities, needs, and interests
  • the IFSP process with further exploration of the family routines and the child’s participation in those routines, along with ongoing exploration of the family’s concerns and priorities
  • during home and community visits focusing on the family’s priorities and working to support parents and caregivers within their typical activities
  • the development of activities and strategies in conjunction with the family that will be carried out by the family during, as well as in between visits
  • The many transitions in the child’s and family’s life.


The coaching style of interaction is based on adult learning principles and is a way to interact with parents, caregivers and other team members to build their confidence and competence in order to enhance child learning and development within the typical activities of the family. It fosters problem solving and planning for actions the parent will take to support their child’s development and learning.

The role of the coach (Early Interventionist) is to “identify the parent’s priorities for their child’s development, determine what they already know and are doing in relation to their child’s development, share new information and ideas, and then work together to support the child’s participation and expression of interest within everyday activity settings to provide opportunities for learning.”

The key elements of the practice dictate that coaching should be:

  • consistent with adult learning
  • capacity building
  • nondirective
  • goal oriented
  • solution focused
  • performance based
  • reflective, collaborative
  • context driven
  • as hand-on as it needs to be

There are numerous studies that support use of coaching as an interaction style with adult-learners and the benefits of using a coaching style for developing competence in the learner. The key characteristics of coaching that build confidence and competence in parents include:

  • Joint Planning: to collaboratively determine the specific activities and strategies the parent will focus on during and between visits, and for parents to determine the specific activity that will be the focus of the next visit
  • Observation: of the parent and child by the interventionist during the visit
  • Action: taken by the parent with the child during the visit and between visits
  • Reflective questions: to determine what the parent already knows and is doing, as well as to foster analysis of information and generation of alternative  ideas by the parent
  • Feedback: from the interventionist that is affirmative and informative, including sharing  research-based knowledge and hands-on modeling followed by practice by the parent

Primary Service Provider

In order to support and build capacity in parents, our system values a Primary Service Provider (PSP) approach to teaming.  This means that every child and every family have a full team supporting and available to them, but one person functions as the primary support for the family.

A Primary Service Provider approach to teaming includes:

  • an established team consisting of multiple disciplines
  • meeting regularly and selecting one member to act as the PSP to the family
  • using coaching as an interaction style with parents, caregivers and other team members
  • strengthening parents confidence and competence in promoting child learning and development
  • supporting  parents competence in obtaining desired supports and resources
  • providing all services and supports within the natural learning opportunities/activities of the family

“The primary service provider approach to teaming is used in early intervention to support families of infants and toddlers in achieving the outcomes established in the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). Under this approach, a team of professionals work together to provide assessment, intervention, consultation, and education in order to support children, families, and caregivers.  One member of the team, serving as the primary service provider (PSP), functions as the primary liaison between the family and other team members. The PSP receives consultation from the other team members and may use adult learning strategies, eg, coaching, as a way to interact with and teach other team members, including the family and caregivers.” The PSP is chosen with input from the whole team including the parent, based on who is the best match for the child and family.[1]


[1] Connecticut Birth to Three System

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