Caregivers’ perceived and actual levels of involvement: A comparison of telepractice and in-person early intervention settings

Ms Melissa McCarthy1,2,3,4, Professor Greg Leigh1,2,3,4, Professor Michael Arthur-Kelly2

 1RIDBC, North Rocks, Australia,

2University of Newcastle, Callaghan, Australia,

 3Macquarie University, Ryde, Australia,

4HEARing CRC, Melbourne, Australia


This paper will present data from a recent study examining the use of technology to deliver effective family-centred early intervention. The study evaluated caregivers’ perceived and actual levels of engagement in two family-centred early intervention settings: ‘telepractice’ (participants in different locations connected through technology) and ‘in-person’ (participants physically present in the same room).

In a family-centred model, the practitioner seeks to build family capacity by actively involving caregivers in the early intervention process. Early intervention sessions that include a higher proportion of caregiver-child interactions and greater levels of caregiver engagement have been linked to positive child and family outcomes. Furthermore, research has shown that families who receive some or all of their services in the home report higher levels of involvement than families who receive services entirely outside of the home. However, the provision of early intervention services into the home can be hindered by a number of known barriers including a lack of local services, a shortage of qualified practitioners, geographical inaccessibility, and financial constraints. Telepractice provides a means of overcoming these barriers by increasing practitioners’ capacity to deliver services in the home through the use of technology.

This study used a two-stage design. First, an existing survey instrument was used to examine caregivers’ perceptions of their engagement. Subsequently, caregivers’ participation behaviours were examined by videorecording early intervention sessions for a subset of the survey cohort. Using methods described in the literature, results were analysed to determine whether there were any differences in perceived or actual levels of caregiver engagement between the telepractice and in-person settings.

The preliminary evidence from this study suggests that there is no difference between early intervention services delivered in-person or through telepractice when considering the important aspect of caregiver engagement.


Melissa McCarthy (BA, MED, LSLS Cert AVT) is a Research Fellow at RIDBC Renwick Centre and PhD candidate at the University of Newcastle. Her current research is focused on the use of telepractice to deliver family-centred early intervention services to children who are deaf or hard of hearing and their families.