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Effective Practices for Preparing Young Children with Disabilities for SchoolThis document has been retired from the active collection
of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education.
It contains references or resources that may no longer be valid or up to date.
The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education (ERIC EC)
ERIC EC Digest #E519
Authors: Christine L. Salisbury and Barbara J. Smith
Research Shows Childhood Intervention Makes a Difference
Over 50 years of research on children with many types of disabilities receiving a range of specialized services in many different settings has produced evidence that early intervention can: (1) ameliorate, and in some cases, prevent developmental problems; (2) result in fewer children being retained in later grades; (3) reduce educational costs to school programs; and (4) improve the quality of parent, child, and family relationships. Much of what we know about early intervention effectiveness is drawn from this diverse historical base of information.
More recently, researchers have begun asking a more rigorous and differentiated question: For whom and under what conditions is early childhood intervention most effective? This more sophisticated question focuses on the effects of various interventions for specific groups of children relative to the type of program they received. Data from well-controlled research studies indicate that young children with disabilities (e.g., Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, sensory impairments), and those who evidence biological (e.g., low birth weight, premature) and environmental risk factors make significant gains on both qualitative and quantitative measures of development when provided appropriate services. The involvement of their parents in reinforcing critical skills in natural contexts is an important factor associated with the magnitude of the child's progress (Guralnick, 1989).
In addition to encouraging parent involvement it has been found that the most effective interventions are those that also:
The "Best Program" Depends upon the Specific Needs of the Child
Conceptually, the fields of early childhood and early childhood special education promote the incorporation of instructional goals and curriculum content into normally occurring routines in the home, preschool, daycare center, and kindergarten settings (Bredekamp, 1987; Rainforth & Salisbury, 1988). Recognizing that children with special needs require efficient, effective, and functional instruction directed at achieving socially and educationally valid outcomes (Carta, Schwartz, Atwater, & McConnell, 1991), it is important that practitioners identify the nature of each child's needs and the extent to which accommodations and supports will be necessary for each child to be successful. Instructional arrangements, curriculum content, and instructional procedures can and should be varied to coincide with the intensity of each child's learning needs. Such accommodations increase the likelihood that children with special needs can be included in a vast array of typical classroom activities.
While many state and local agencies are still grappling with the issue of what kind of service delivery models they will endorse, it is clear that the special education and related services needs of young children with identified or at-risk conditions can be appropriately met in settings that include normally developing children (e.g., daycare, typical preschools, Head Start, regular classrooms) (Guralnick, 1990; Hanson & Hanline, 1989; Templeman, Fredericks, & Udell, 1989). Integrated settings have, in fact, been found to produce higher proportions, rates, and levels of social, cognitive, and linguistic skills in children with disabilities than segregated settings (Brinker, 1985; Guralnick, 1990).
General Principles to Help Guide the Selection of Practices
Five general principles can be used to guide the selection of effective practices: least restrictive environment, family-centered services, transdisciplinary service delivery, inclusion of both empirical and value-driven practices, and inclusion of both developmentally and individually appropriate practices.
The reality of today's society is that any child, on a given day, may be a child with special needs. Recognizing this fact, it is important that local preschool and early education programs tailor curriculum and instructional practices to fit the diversity represented in their classrooms. Adapting the "standard" to fit those who may not fall within expected margins is a strategy necessary for effective teaching and learning and one that enhances the likelihood that children will feel and be successful.
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Bredekamp, S. (Ed.)(1987). "Developmentally appropriate." Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children. ED283587.
Brinker, R. P. (1985). "Interactions between severely mentally retarded students and other students in integrated and segregated public school settings." American Journal of Mental Deficiency, 89, 587-594.
Carta, J. C., Schwartz, I. S., Atwater, J. B., McConnell, S. R. (1991). "Developmentally appropriate practice: Appraising its usefulness for young children with disabilities." Topics in Early Childhood Education, 11 (1) 1-20.
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Guralnick, M. J. (1990). "Social competence and early intervention." Journal of Early Intervention, 14(1), 3-14.
Hanson, M. J. & Hanline, M. F. (1989). "Integration options for the very young child." In R. Gaylord-Ross (Ed.), "Integration strategies for students with handicaps," (pp. 177-194). Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.
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McDonnell, A. & Hardman, M. (1988). "A synthesis of "best practice" for early childhood services." Journal of the Division for Early Childhood, 12, 32-341.
Rainforth, B., & Salisbury, C. L. (1988). "Functional home programs: A model for therapists." Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 7(4), 33-45.
Raver, S. A. (1991). "Strategies for teaching at-risk and handicapped infants and toddlers: A transdisciplinary approach." New York: Macmillan.
Templeman, T. P., Fredericks, H. D., & Udell, T. (1989). "Integration of children with moderate and severe handicaps into a day care center." Journal of Early Intervention, 13(4), 315-328.
This digest was developed from selected portions of the
Salisbury, C. L. (1990). "Providing Effective Early Intervention
Services: Why and How?" Pittsburgh, PA: Allegheny-Singer Research
Institute, ED 340160.
ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education