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The ERIC/OSEP Special Project

OSEP, Ideas that Work

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Development funded by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs


What Do Professionals and Parents Want and Expect from Early Childhood Services?

Early childhood practitioners, early childhood program directors, and parents of children with disabilities value and expect different benefits from three different types of service provided under IDEA, Part C. A study conducted by the Research and Training Center in Service Coordination investigated what professionals and parents consider the most important benefits from Part C activities that provide (1) coordination of services, (2) early intervention, and (3) natural environment practices. In general, professionals and parents agree on which outcomes of service are the most important. Two outcomes-family satisfaction and improved quality of life-are considered important benefits of all three types of service. In addition, practitioners and parents valued some outcomes they specifically associate with a given type of service:

Most Important Benefits of Service Coordination:

  1. systems coordination
  2. information and referral
  3. family support and resources
  4. family-centered practices
  5. teaming

Most Important Benefits of Early Intervention:

  1. child development and functioning
  2. child quality of life
  3. parenting competence and confidence

Most Important Benefits of Natural Environments:

  1. child mastery
  2. parent/child interactions
  3. inclusion
  4. child learning opportunities

The Research and Training Center in Service Coordination (http://childandfamily.uchc.edu/research/research.htm) describes service coordination models used throughout the United States and its territories, identifies practices and strategies associated with different service coordination models, and identifies the outcomes that are realized from effective service coordination. This study was undertaken to clarify reasonable expectations for the outcomes of service coordination.

The center first conducted 26 focus groups in 4 states to identify 69 outcomes of early childhood services. These outcomes were then ranked by 879 early childhood practitioners, early childhood program directors, and parents of young children with disabilities in 48 of the 50 states. They were asked to rank the outcomes according to their value, giving the highest rank to those they considered the most valued benefits of each IDEA Part C service.

While this study investigated perceived service benefits, a following study will measure actual outcomes. It will also relate outcomes to the processes employed in providing service.

This study was supported in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (H324L990002). For further information, see "Valued Outcomes of Service Coordination, Early Intervention and Natural Environments," by Carl J. Dunst and Mary Beth Bruder. Exceptional Children, 68(3), 361-375. Spring 2002.

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Last updated: February 24, 2003

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