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Working with Fathers:Breaking Through the Gender Barrier in Early Intervention
ZadockCropperEd FeinbergEvan PaprockiLisaTrovatoAnne Arundel County Infants and Toddlers ProgramBrian MorrisonMaryland State Department of Education
What has been your experience in working with fathers?What was your comfort level?Why is it different to work with fathers than mothers? What are some of the challenges?
TraditionalGender Rolesfor Mothers and Fathers
Mothers are expected to……..Fathers are expected to……..
Blurring of Gender Roles
More stay-at-home dads.Greater sharing of parenting roles amongmillenials.However……..Does blurring of traditional roles mean that fathers perceive that they have a primary responsibility for caring for a child?How do other people perceive role of the dad?
Additional Social Trends
Increase in divorces with joint custody.Flexible work schedules.Layoffs have affected men more than women.
Fathers’ Perception of a Childhood Disability
Adversity to overcome rather than experience to be integrated into family life.Goal-directed: Something that can be beaten despite the odds.Poor reflection on father and family.Something to be concealed.
How fathers’ perceptions affect family life
Fathers often…..Shut down; if it’s not discussed then it is not real.Are concerned about the potential cost of care.Have broken dreams; this is not the way it was meant to be.
How mothers’ perceptions affect family life
Mothers…..Seek comfort, information and connections from other mothers.Share their experience; develop kinship with other mothers.Become advocates for their child; often find unexpected strength.
Early intervention and fathers’ role expectations
Fathers…..Feel alienated. Early intervention meetings and services can seem like a world of women. What is the role of the father?Uncomfortable with questions around feelings and expectations of self-disclosure.Feel like the secondary parent; mother is the go-to person.
Practices in Early Intervention
Evaluation/IFSP meetings:Who attends? Who answers questions? To whom are questions posed by evaluators?Early intervention sessions:What activities do we choose? Why do we choose these activities? Do we think of the comfort level of the parents or only of the child’s developmental profile in choosing activities?
Construct of Similarity
Crucial component in monitoring our own interaction with families…..Our ability to relate to parents is directly correlated with the commonalities that we perceive between ourselves and the family. Factors include commonalities in gender, race, level of education, social class.
How to Encourage Fathers:A E I O U
Sentence completion…..“I wish that the fathers I work with were more aware of _________.”“The fathers that I work with probably wish that I was more aware of_______.”
What is the biggest challenge?How do we encourage fathers now?How are fathers invited to participate? Are they invited to participate?What activities do we choose?
How are fathers getting their information now?What information do they want?How do we provide them with the information that they want?
How do we observe? How do we generation participation?OWLingHow do we give feedback?
What do fathers need to understand?How do we convey information that they need to understand?How do we feel when fathers don’t understand what we believe is important?What do we need to understand?
Some things to consider
Calling father by position [“dad”] rather than by name.Minimizing role – dad as babysitter.Self-monitor: How often do I look at the father versus the mother during the course of a conversation?How do I engage fathers and establish rapport?Am I mindful of family gender role preferences in selecting activities?
Observe and reflect
Intake interview with a dad….Starring:Evan – DadLisa and Ed - interviewers
A Clinician’s Perspective
Reflections by Lisa…….





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