Project TaCTICS

Natural Environments


The Law says...IDEA 1997

Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997 says that to the maximum extent appropriate, early intervention services must be provided in natural environments, including home and community settings in which children without disabilities participate. Services can only be provided in a setting other than a natural environment when early intervention cannot be achieved satisfactorily in a natural environment. [SEC. 632 (4) (G) and SEC. 635 (a) (16) (B)]

Providing services in natural environments is not just the law. It reflects the core mission of early intervention, which is to provide support to families to help their children develop to their fullest potential, and allows children and families to more fully participate in their communities. We have learned many important things about how infants, toddlers, and families can benefit most from early intervention.

What We've Learned...

  • Families participate in many, many teaching opportunities throughout the day but often do not recognize the significance of the "stuff" of everyday life. Young children learn best when they are taught skills like eating, playing, moving, and communicating during the times and in the places where they need to eat, walk, or talk.
  • Family members and other care providers need support to provide children with learning opportunities. Early intervention can assist them in helping their child acquire the skills he/she needs. New skills are best learned from people and peers the child prefers. The traditional hands-on, direct therapy approach is not enough for children. All care providers need to feel confident in helping children practice skills in settings where they live, learn, and play and at times throughout the day.
  • Friends, neighbors, child care providers, play groups, churches, libraries, and other community supports enhance the quality of every family's life. Services provided in natural environments support and encourage families to find and strengthen natural supports outside the early intervention system. These supports, established when the child is young, are likely to remain throughout his/her school career and into adulthood.
  • Young children with delays or disabilities have difficulty taking skills they learned in a therapy room or special classroom and transferring them to places like the park or their living room or church nursery.

Natural Environments are for Everyone...

Natural environments are the day-to-day settings and activities that promote learning for children. Children learn about baby floating in water"water" while playing in the bathtub, washing hands in the sink, getting a drink, splashing in a puddle, or swimming in a pool. In addition to understanding what water is, children are learning self-help skills like drinking from a cup, hand and face washing, or motor skills like walking and jumping. Natural environments are places these everyday activities take place, including the bathroom, kitchen sink, backyard, and community pool. Natural environments are identified by the family as they talk about the activities of their life. They may see grandpa, walk to the store, get the mail, feed the dog, and do the laundry. These are opportunities for teaching and learning.

While the major goals of the TaCTICS project are focused to assist therapists gain skills in working in natural environments, it is also essential that everyone involved understand what natural environment means, why it's important and how it works. The following handouts are included to help you educate others including family members, child care providers, community members, and administrators about the basic concepts involved in natural environments.


Training Materials

These training materials have been provided in PDF (Portable Document Format) and may be downloaded by clicking on the document name. If you would like a copy of the materials e-mailed to you, please contact Katrina Cripe to request a copy.

Note: The materials are being provided in Adobe Acrobat format. If you have not used Acrobat (or PDF, Portable Document Format) files before, you can find detailed information on the format and the free Acrobat Reader software here.

After viewing the handout in PDF format, please use the Back button on your browser to return to TaCTICS!

DEC Position on Inclusion
Three Rs
Day in life of Katie
Providing Services in NE
The Home Field Advantage in Early Intervention
Natural Environments Bibliography
Cody's Playground Activity
Do the Math!

Blank Playground Activity

Blank Do the Math

Diffusion of Family-Centered Early Intervention Services in Natural Environments DEC 2006 - Little Rock, Arkansas