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Providing effective early intervention for high-risk infants and their families

Delivering effective early intervention for high-risk infants and their families in a coordinated and co-produced way. Coaching is at the heart of Ei SMART, a strong point during virtual consultations.

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  • Proposal
  • 2020

Meet the team


  • Dr Betty Hutchon DSc MRCOT
  • Dr Anna Basu BMBCh MA FRCPCH PHD
  • Jane Moffat (parent)
  • Other members of Ei SMART

What is the positive change that has emerged through new collaborations or partnerships during Covid-19 that your project is going to embed?

As a mother of two children with healthcare needs, one born at 24 weeks gestation and one with Cerebral Palsy, I got to know many healthcare professionals. For the past decade of health interventions, I often felt like a coordinator between all these experts, wishing they could work together and also incorporate my point of view when supporting my child.

Together with other parents, therapists and doctors, we have formed Ei SMART, which aims to deliver effective early intervention for high-risk infants and their families in a coordinated and co-produced way.

For many families, the COVID pandemic has meant a drastic change in how they are being supported in the early years through therapeutic interventions and the role they play in them. The best option for early intervention therapists is a creative programme that combines different theoretical models and can be adapted to the current needs.

What does your project aim to achieve?

Ei SMART is based on the key principles of understanding development and how relationships are crucial to therapy effectiveness.

The core components are:

1. Supporting a consistent and responsive parent-infant relationship
2. Challenging the infant with a wide variety of self-produced motor activities in a variety of conditions
3. Scaffolding the infant’s next developmental steps
4. Minimising infant stress
5. Supporting the infant’s self-regulation
6. Promoting parental well-being

By adopting the Ei SMART approach, therapy interventions can be more effective – despite the restrictions that the COVID pandemic brings.

How will the project be delivered?

Ei SMART is a not for profit CIC, jointly chaired by Dr Betty Hutchon DSc MRCOT and myself, Sibylle Erdmann, a parent carer. Ei SMART has a multi-disciplinary team across the UK and abroad and an Expert Panel of advisors.

Following the publication of our paper ‘Early Intervention programmes for infants at high risk of atypical neurodevelopmental outcome’, published in Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology Dec 2019/Vol 61/issue 12, we have set up the Ei SMART website and social media accounts including a podcast for awareness and training purposes. Our online Masterclasses, taking place end 2020, have received great interest.

Following this training, we envisage to implement a series of interventions, namely through developing specific programmes based on the evidence for efficacy. We need to redesign interventions to replace more traditional models and these would be implemented through targeted pilot studies, which would also assess outcomes.

How is your project going to share learning?

We have already developed a series of Developmental Play Guides, available on our website, to be shared between therapists and parents. We have made translations available, which came about as a result of the demand for this kind of approach and knowledge from various communities.

The huge popularity of the current leaflets has shown us the current gap in the market. We envisage to create further Developmental Play Guides for those babies and young children who may not be able to play in the way the current leaflets show.

Learning will be shared on a continuous basis through our website and social media feeds, in addition to our training sessions and conference presentations. Our Special Interest Group has over 400 members and our formal launch is planned with BANNFU in April 2021.

Furthermore, three members of the Ei SMART team have been invited to the all party parliamentary committee on early intervention.

How you can contribute

  • Feedback from colleagues and communities regarding the application of Ei SMART principles in practice

Plan timeline

1 Jan 2021 Continued development and delivery of online learning events
1 Feb 2021 Design work with families on joint goal setting
1 Mar 2021 Creation of Ei sensitive Developmental Play Guides for families


  1. Thank you for your interest, I have added a note on BANNFU in our proposal. We are grateful for the responses we have received from healthcare professionals, academia and families. We are proud that our materials are a source of support in uncertain times, as confirmed by a neonatologist in Beirut who is using Ei SMART with local families of premature babies. We are motivated to embed this work in the UK as a best practice example.

  2. A really interesting project. As a healthcare professional and neonatologist following up high risk neonates this would be a valuable piece of work. Have you thought of collaborating with BANNFU for this?

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