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PRAN Portage and Rehabilitation Association Nepal   Drawings of a bird, a butterfly, stars and a slice of water melon
Portage - Enabling the children of the world

One of the most frequent questions asked is, how did Portage get its name? The original Portage model was developed in Portage, Wisconsin in the United States. That is only coincidental to the name. The main reason is the definition of the word Portage. Webster's New World Dictionary defines Portage as "The act of carrying or transporting". This definition is the true reason that we chose to call it the Portage project. It wasn't because of where it was located, but instead it was because it signified that we were developing a home based intervention model where we carried or transported the information and intervention into the home, in the child's and family's natural environment and carried it from professional to parents.

QuoteThe basic premise of the Portage model was and remains:
•  Parents care about their children and want them to attain their maximum potential,
•  Parents can, with instruction, modeling and reinforcement, learn to be more effective teachers of their own children,
•  The economic, educational or intellectual level of the parent does not determine their willingness to teach their child nor the extent of gains the child will attain as a result of parental instruction.

Today, the Portage still operates under the same premises.  In fact, in its beginning, most of the components of the Portage Model were thought to be revolutionary.  Such components as ongoing assessment, individualized curriculum planning, parents as the child’s primary teacher, and embedding developmental activities into the child’s and family’s daily routine are widely accepted and used by today’s early intervention programs as “standard practice”.   The components are so enmeshed in current intervention practice that professionals no longer associate them with the original Portage Model.  Indeed many early interventionists today may view Portage as “outdated” or “unfashionable” when, in fact, what they consider to be today’s accepted standards of current practice originated in the Portage Model.

So what are the key components of the Portage Model?  

The key components of the original Portage model include: 

Parents as Primary Teachers:
From its inception, Portage has emphasized the parent’s role as the child’s primary teacher.  Parents as teachers can motivate children, can reinforce newly acquired skills in the home and can provide valuable information for others working with the child. Research has shown that intensity is a critical element that is typically missing in early intervention projects.  In the Portage Model, the potential for larger and longer lasting effects in the child increases because of the amount of time spent with the parent and the amount of opportunities to practice what was learned.
 The role of parents as the child’s primary teacher is not dichotomous, differentiated by presence or absence of participation.  Involvement is a continuum process along with which parents can progress based on their individual needs and circumstance and with the expectation that they do not wish to remain static at any given point.

Assessment: A systematic measurement of the child’s developmental status is a critical component in Portage and occurs through four types of assessment: formal – the use of a standardized instrument designed to determine the child’s strengths and needs, informal – observations of the child and how the child interacts with his environment and family members, Curriculum based – is the use of a developmental curriculum which guides the parents and teacher in planning the child’s program, and on-going – measuring the child’s progress regularly. Information from these procedures provides the means by which a curriculum can be developed to meet the child’s individual needs. One important change in assessment is the expansion of assessment procedures beyond the individual child.  The inter relatedness and impact of family support and the home environment upon the child’s developmental outcomes has been widely discussed.  Consequently, comprehensive assessment includes a survey of family concerns and available resources as well as evaluation of key elements in the child’s environment.

Precision Teaching Method: Precision teaching is an established approach that is based on behavioral principles and has been particularly successful with children with disabilities.  This method utilizes a set of simple but effective procedures that teachers or home visitors and parents follow to identify, monitor, and make decisions about critical skills or behaviors a child needs.  All of us who work in early childhood intervention need to be reminded that development proceeds rapidly during the first years of a child’s life.  Intervention approaches that facilitate development are heavily based on theory and methodology and support a tendency toward “trial and error”.  Infants and young children cannot afford to wait 3 to 6 months to see if a particular intervention is successful.
Precision teaching reduces the use of trial and error.  It emphasizes watching and recording behavior to identify the unique strengths or problems of the child and recording their responses to determine results of the intervention.

Home Teaching Process: The centrality of the home teaching process to the other components is not by accidental design.  The home teaching process is the “heart and soul” of Portage, the point which all of the components converge and where successful intervention occurs.  This process focuses on teaching the parents the teaching skills of particular activities so that they can serve as the child’s main teacher in the home throughout the week.

Reporting: Recording, reporting and evaluation are ongoing activities that provide documentation of the services to all children in a program and their families. 

So what have been some of our promises to families, professionals, communities and individuals?

Our promises to families are that:

We will build a partnership in the provision of the child’s program and in the decision making of what will be included in the child’s program.  Partnership has become a commonly used word in this field, but in the Portage Model, families must be partners or the program will simply not succeed.

QuoteToday, Portage is the most recognized and used early intervention model in the world.  It is a fact indeed that there isn't anywhere that provides special education or early intervention services that hasn't heard of Portage.  One unique aspect of Portage is that it is complex in design but simple to implement.  
  • We promise that we are committed to insuring that the child will succeed and progress and that we are concerned for his well being now and in the future.
  • We also promise that our focus will be on the parents and their teaching and nurturing skills. Most early intervention programs focus primarily on the child and child outcomes.  In the Portage approach, the focus is on the entire family.
  • Our promise is to conduct the child’s intervention in his natural environment that focuses primarily in the child’s home but also assist in helping the child learn across environmental settings.  We also promise that we will assist the child and family generalizes learned skills in all of the settings in which the child lives.
  • We promise to support the family in not only helping their child, but in meeting their needs.  An early intervention service that only focuses on the child will not have longitudinal effects.  We must support and help the entire family in order to have lasting, positive effects with the child.
  • Through training and the use of a systematic approach, we promise to improve the professional’s ability to provide a comprehensive early intervention service to the children and families they serve.
  • We promise to develop and provide a systematic curriculum that will guide professionals in their curriculum planning and implementation.
  • We have continuously provided new and innovative practices into the Portage system.  However, no new practices were inserted into the model until we were convinced that they fit into the model and they were determined to be effective approaches before they became common practice in the model.
  • We promise to train professionals in the area of adult education since, in the Portage Model; it is the adult members of the family that we are in partnership with.  We must be informed of adult learning modes as we work with the parents of the child.  We also must know that the roll of professionals in natural environments is built upon the “coaching model” in which we transfer information and skills from the provider to the family members.
  • We also promise to enmesh a comprehensive early intervention delivery system into the Portage ModelOur promise to the families has always been that we would provide a supportive environment for each child and family that entered our service. This addresses the need to involve the community in the child and family’s lives.  It means that we assist in planning for the child to be included in many community activities.
  • We promise to conduct many community awareness campaigns in helping them understand the needs and interests of children with disabilities and their families. We are committed to helping the child to become a valued member of the community and to assist that child to grow and develop into a contributing member of the community.
  • Our commitment to each and every individual in our program is that we will make every attempt to assist them in developing to their full potential.
  • We know that the ultimate goals of an early intervention program leads to the dignity, independence and a positive self-image of every child that enters the program. And we know that accomplishment of each of these begins in an early intervention program.  Too often, as professionals, we become concerned about dignity, independence and self-image later in the child’s life but like his overall development, these too must be enhanced right from birth.
  • Dignity follows learning and accomplishments and competency.
  • Independence only comes within a framework of meaningful relationships within the community and in the home and the child’s self image comes with the person being successful in who he is and what he attempts to do.  This must begin in early intervention services.

Portage encourages you to consider these promises as you continue to work with very young children and their families.  Portage also encourages families to consider these same promises as they enrich their child’s life.

Today, Portage is the most recognized and used early intervention model in the world.  It is a fact indeed that there isn’t anywhere that provides special education or early intervention services that hasn’t heard of Portage.  One unique aspect of Portage is that it is complex in design but simple to implement.  People use it because it is inexpensive, because it focuses where it should, with the families in the child’s natural environment and it works!  We must keep our promises to the families and children that we serve. It is a grave responsibility. 

The Headquarters of the International Portage Association in USA has a website and we also have a comprehensive training and technical assistance service that expands throughout the world.  Should you be interested in approaching us please use the email address that is provided to you.  Currently, the IPA is working to establish training centers in several locations.  Our primary target at this time is in Nicosia, Cyprus where there is a vibrant and effective early intervention service using the Portage model. We are also negotiating two other training centers at this time. One is located in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and the other one is in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Each of these centers will work in partnership with the Headquarters of the IPA in serving their respective regions of the world in the provision of training and technical assistance in the development and implementation of comprehensive early intervention services.

The newest development in Portage is inclusion of Portage in Community Based Rehabilitation programmes in developing countries. Portage in CBR responds to local social, cultural, economic conditions. IPA recognized the initiative of CBR NETWORK (South Asia) in its endeavor to take “Portage to Every Village”.

This effort has resulted in the development of Portage training program using distance education to reach out to CBR workers, Portage and inclusive education teachers. Joyful inclusion inclusive education manual is based on the portage principles.

It has the key SOMA features of Portage:

Specific      ·       Observable         ·       Measurable         ·       Achievable