Established in June of l998, the Special Start Training Program provides specialized training in the unique developmental needs of babies who are born either medically fragile or premature. The program is designed for professionals and caregivers caring for newborns that were hospitalized in the neonatal intensive care nursery at birth and have transitioned home.
This relationship-based program is intended for community service professionals, parents, foster parents and other caregivers. The SSTP is funded through the State of California Department of Social Services Office of Child Abuse Prevention. All training is free of charge.
The training emphasizes collaboration between professionals, caregivers and community, as caregivers support the infant's development. Building on the strengths of the infant and the family during interaction with the caregiver is also emphasized. The training has increased their recognition of specific high-risk newborn signals and behaviors, which in turn enable them to help parents understand their infant's unique communication (which differ from those of a full-term newborn). In learning to differentiate between what is organized balanced behavior from what is disorganized stressful for the infant, parents are able to help their infant work towards organized behavioral patterns that support their medical recovery and development.
Dedicated to the development of high-risk newborns, the Special Start Training Program is guided by the following principles:
Infants are active participants in their relationships with parents, family members and professionals. The behavior of the infant is the basis for their communication (Als, 2007).
All children are born primed for feelings and ready to learn. (Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). Each baby is working toward optimizing behavioral organization and requires individualized developmental support (Als, 2007).
The family members are the most important authority on their own children and hold essential information that enhances their child’s health and development. Parents are viewed as experts in their infant’s development. Developmental care draws on the expertise and strengths of the family (Browne, et al, 2000; Hansen et al, l994).
Collaboration between caregivers and professionals working together is ideal for an infant's development. Families are treated as partners and the primary source of support and regulation for their infant.