The Importance of Early Childhood Intervention
Early intervention approach provides lasting improvements among children as it enhances skills and abilities to address persistent social problems transmitted among generations. Consequently, the government saves public funds utilized in conducting long term tests to determine policies crucial in providing children with emotional and social security for the rest of their lives. This is due to well established long term self-assuring policies being implemented in ensuring children transition to adulthood to be equally competent parents and guardians to future generations. Early childhood programs have therefore gained local and national government recognition as they persistently provide interventions addressing social problems affecting children as they transition to adulthood (BEI, 2013).
President Barrack Obama asserted that, children are consistently starting schooling late across the country. He therefore asserted billions of dollars have to be utilized towards early childhood education to reduce dropout rates and improve reading scores. Early Childhood Intervention is vital as it ensures babies, children, and young people acquire social and emotional skills guarantying success in future. Most parents provide children with Early Childhood Intervention through instincts and common sense. This does not guarantee that the child will be well rounded, capable, and sociable resulting to utilization of huge financial and social resources in future. Graham Allen therefore asserts that, Early Childhood Intervention is a growing approach bringing social and emotional balance among children (Graham, 2011).
Importance of Early Childhood Intervention
According to National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center, Early Childhood Intervention enhances development of children either with or without impairments and disabilities. Early Childhood Intervention services should therefore be provided to children aged between zero and three years facing developmental delays that are either attributed to medical circumstances or inborn condition. Infants with a heightened risk of developing delays due to biological and medical factors as well as environmental and care giving circumstances should also assess Early Childhood Intervention services. Early Childhood Intervention also minimizes probable developmental delays. This further reduces educational costs as the need to provide special education services among children is minimized. It is important to offer Early Childhood Intervention services to children in order to enhance brain maturity (NECTAC, 2011).
The Center on developing Child within Harvard University asserts that, the foundations for erudition, healthiness, and behavior are flexible during the initial three years of a child’s life. As the child grows and develops, it becomes increasingly difficult to change them as the neural circuits have already been determined. Adults able to provide responsive and caring services while maintaining stable relationships under safe and supportive environments have to undergo early childhood intervention. This enables them to be adults able to provide appropriate nutrition among other key elements crucial for a healthy brain development among children in future generations. Early emotional and social development as well as physical health also relies on Early Childhood Intervention as children are able to develop and enhance cognitive and language skills. Early Childhood Intervention is therefore important as children are able to record success in school, at the workplace, and within the larger community settings (NECTAC, 2011).
Early Childhood Intervention is also important as it provides the following benefits among children. Foremost, a child’s developmental trajectory is changed in order to enhance families and communities outcomes. For example, high quality early childhood interventions services ensure are able to positively impact children’s language, health, and communication skills through cognitive, social, and emotional development. As a result, families are able to better meet their children’s needs either at an early age or throughout their lives. Consequently, communities benefit through reduced socioeconomic burdens, enhanced academic successes, and decreased need for special education (NECTAC, 2011).
Early Childhood Intervention services are also important as they help families and teachers to identify the skills a child is developing as he/she grows. For example, children roll over, smile, crawl, walk, and learn to speak as they grow and mature. Some children however can learn some of these skills either earlier or later in life while others fail to develop some developmental skills such as hearing and speaking due to development disabilities. Through early childhood intervention, such impairments and delayed developments can be identified early prompting families to seek medical assistance before they exacerbate. Early Childhood Intervention also ensures parents and care givers identify a child’s strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes. This guarantees the child’s talents and hobbies are identified and enhanced as children mature.
Consequently, families can seek Individualized Education Plan services from a preschool program paying attention to the child’s unique needs while enhancing the talents and hobbies. The Early Childhood Intervention services are therefore vital as they are intended to identify and treat children according to their needs when developing and maturing. They also guide families in identifying the most appropriate and applicable school-based programs providing a child with skills and abilities to be balanced members of the community (BEI, 2013).
The legislation of young children with impairments and disabilities is vital as it enables parents to seek education-based intervention services for free. Through early childhood intervention, families and educational programs are able to recognize children with disabilities. They can access programs and services offered through Individuals with Disabilities Education Act covered by federal and state laws. Early Childhood Intervention services are therefore important as they recognize children with disabilities in need of special and unique educational services which they can effectively and efficiently access freely through formal service programs regulated by the government (David, & Mawhinney, 2013).
Laws on Special Education
Special education programs across America were mandated in 1975. United States Congress passed the Educational for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA) to ensure children with disabilities do not face discriminatory treatment. Educational for All Handicapped Children Act however was modified and strengthened to guarantee protection of children with disabilities and impairments. It was renamed as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act which requires the Federal, State, and local governments ensure children with disabilities access and acquire special education and related services consistently. Federal values are however applied as a stipulation for various State and local special education programs to obtain centralized funds required for effective and efficient services provided. American children are entitled to a complimentary and suitable civic education in Least Restrictive Environments (LRE). Experts from local edifying agencies collaborate with parents in identifying children’s unique needs.
Annual goals ensuring the children access education are developed. For example, some polices are placed in order to modify a program in effort to accommodate children with disabilities, developmental challenges, and unique educational needs. This ensures they receive counseling among other special services meeting a child’s unique developmental and educational needs. Ensuring parents equally participate in the process guarantees the children’s plans fulfill the Individualized Education Program requirements meeting State and Federal educational standards (David, & Mawhinney, 2013).
The PL 94-142 was passed to guarantee schools across United States edify children with disabilities in 1975. This was after it was revealed only one out of five children with disabilities were able to access and acquire educational services. Thus, a surplus of one million children with distinctive educational needs was being left without an opportunity to access public schools. As a result, additional three million children either acquired little or unproductive educational instructions. Various states had implemented laws exclusive of children with disabilities and impairments. For example, those suffering from emotional instability, psychological retardant, and loss of sight were explicitly debarred. This prompted family associations to be formed in order to advocate for rights to eliminate discrimination against children with disabilities in 1950s and 1960s. As a result, federal government commencement allocation of funds aimed at developing methods to be applied in providing educational services to children with disabilities and unique educational needs. After several legislations, programs developing and implementing educational services targeting children with unique needs were passed.
Laws determining how staffs within the programs ought to be trained were passed. The PL 85-926 law implemented in 1958 and PL 86-158 in 1959 sought to ensure staffs are trained before providing children with various disabilities educational services. The PL 87-276 Teachers of the Deaf Act was also implemented in 1961 to provide guidance to staffs assisting hearing-impaired children. In 1965, the PL 89-10 Elementary and Secondary Education Assistance Act as well as PL 89-313 State Schools Act were developed to ensure states are funded to facilitate children with impairments and disabilities to access edification. In 1968, the Handicapped Children’s Early Education Assistance Act of 1968 (PL 90-538) was required to fund Early Childhood Intervention services catering for children with impairments and disabilities. These laws paved way for several landmark court decisions to be applied in ensuring children with disabilities access and receive educational services (David, & Mawhinney, 2013).
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act asserts that, children with more than three years are entitled to seek special edifying services. The youngster however has to demonstrate she/he needs special edifying services due to an impairment or disability. The children should therefore be diagnosed with disabilities including, development, emotional and behavioral disabilities, autism, speech and language impairments, traumatic brain injuries, specific learning, visual, hearing, physical, orthopedic, and intellectual impairments, as well as other attention deficit disorders. Individual needs of a student should be determined to establish specialized educational services to be offered in a resource room. More so, self care, physical, vocational, speech, language, and social skills are addressed accordingly. The Cooperative Federalism Model is applied in structuring unique edification programs at locality levels. This model is governed by Federal and State laws to ensure the primary responsibility of developing and executing educational programs for children with disabilities are State determined. For example, State and Federal educational authorities should cooperate in reporting and certifying policies and procedures effectively meeting Individuals with Disabilities Education Act’s conditions (David, & Mawhinney, 2013).
Local educational facilities and educators should meet State standards in order to receive funds after being certified by state educational agency acting in accordance to State procedures, policies, and regulations. Disputes often begin at the local level until they reach administrative law. This prompts a judicial review to occur in order for aspects of special education law on evolving civil rights to be resolved. The Free Appropriate Public Education ensures the educational programs and services are accessible. It however has to ensure the services are funded while remaining under the direction and supervision of the public without incurring charges. More so, the services have to meet state and federal standards.
Free Appropriate Public Education has to ensure appropriate preschool, elementary, and secondary school educational services are provided at state level in order to comply with lawful individual educational plan. With regards to least restrictive environment, students are required to access educational services while socializing with typical peers at the greatest extent possible. This regulation should be observed to ensure children with special and unique educational needs do not face unnecessary segregation. More so, the children are able to record more success as they do not have to deal with issues allied to discrimination and prejudice (David, & Mawhinney, 2013).
Students’ conducts however should be reviewed regularly to ensure they are fitting in Least Restrictive Environment. Restrictions and Behavior Intervention Plans (BIP) can be applied to address inappropriate behaviors. The school system however should allow experts such as the Special Education Professionals, Behavioral Specialists, counselors, and psychologists to intervene for a successful learning environment to be developed. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 should therefore be held accountable in ensuring all laws passed in ensuring children with disabilities are not segregated. This will guarantee American children both able and disabled join the population of persons seeking educational services to enhance social, physical, health, environmental, emotional conditions (David, & Mawhinney, 2013).
The Sooner Start in Tulsa, Oklahoma
The Sooner Start Early Intervention Program was established in Oklahoma to cater for infants and children with special developmental needs. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal agenda established in 1986. It assists in operating the all-inclusive statewide program of early intervention services provided to children aged between zero and two years with diverse disabilities. For example, it caters for children undergoing maturity delays as well as those with physical and psychological conditions causing growth and developmental delays. Their families are also catered for through the program ensuring the children receive care from adults with comprehensive skills of establishing stable emotional, social, health, and environmental foundations for success (OSDE, 2012).
Sooner Start is therefore a voluntary program provided at no cost to families across Oklahoma with children facing developmental challenges. Residents of Oklahoma and those residing on reservation and Indian land geographies in the State as well as homeless families and children with disabilities can access services offered through Sooner Start early intervention. The 2004 amendments ensured Sooner Start early intervention services across Oklahoma are accessible to eligible children with developmental delays and disabilities as well as their families. Through the Sooner Start program, children with support from their families are able to be prepared for future educational, environmental, social, emotional, and health responsibilities for independent living opportunities. The program also makes certain children’s civil liberties and privileges are protected in accordance to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Public agencies providing special education and related services are assisted in order for children to assess effective efforts from Sooner Start program. The staffs facilitating Sooner Start program are therefore required to comply with applicable Federal and State regulations in accordance with Part C of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE, 2012).
The Sooner Start Program Mission
In 1986, Oklahoma developed a survey to determine services needed by children with disabilities. In 1987, the P-L 99-457 Education of Handicapped Act was formulated. In 1987, Gubernatorial Executive Order was developed declaring the department of education should be the leading agency in establishment of Interagency Coordinating Council for Early Childhood. The Interagency Coordinating Council comprises of children with diverse developmental disabilities as well as their parents. It also comprises of representatives from Department of Education, Human Services, Health, Substance Abuse, Mental Health, Higher Education, Insurance, Health Care Authority, and State Legislature. To maintain the Interagency Coordinating Council, Oklahoma Commission on children and Youth was designated to counsel and assist the agency. This ensures the following services are offered at no cost effectively and efficiently. The main service offered through the Sooner Start program aims at enhancing the development of infants and children with disabilities (OSDE, 2012).
Sooner Start program is required to enhance potentials for independent living. Consequently, the capacity of families to meet children’s special needs is enhanced among Oklahoma families and communities. The Pilot Services are offered through the Sooner Start program. The service involves Oklahoma’s schools being provided with transferring services to State operated system. This has ensured the program’s mission is achieved. The main objective of Sooner Start Program is to augment abilities among children in Oklahoma especially with impairments, disabilities and developmental delays. Through the program, the capacities of children’s families are strengthened in order to support infant’s developmental stages. Sooner Start ensures the stages are supported by individualized, comprehensive and coordinated systems providing services, trans-disciplinary and support to the families in a natural life context. The services however have to be evidence based and provided under current best practices to achieve early intervention. More so, the services have to be research based and implemented in line with clinical experiences and family values (Carla, 2006).
The Sooner Start’s mission is guided by the following cultural-based and family-centered core ethics and values. The first core value is based on the fact that all families are unique. The people first philosophy should however be applied while acknowledging that, family is the expert and constant factor in a child’s life. The primary service provider approach should also be upheld under the core value affirming that, parents and professionals ought to collaborate as a team supporting and networking to make address children’s developmental needs. The natural life context is applied to ensure a child’s daily experiences, places, and events are learning opportunities. This promotes and enhances behavioral and developmental competencies in a child. The learning opportunities should therefore be routine while utilizing spontaneous life activities. Sooner Start assists families and care providers to increase participation while fulfilling the program’s mission statement (OSDE, 2012).
As a result, desired and existing activities are based on family and community life to provide learning opportunities. This ensures children benefit from enhanced interactions with family members and care providers. Learner-focused services are applied in training care givers. Sooner Start staffs listen to parents and care giver’s desires on how to fulfill a child’s needs. Consequently, they assist to identify strategies able to achieve the desired results through technical support. Sooner Start staffs should therefore meet State requirements when applying as service providers with regards to specific profession and discipline within the program. Staffs include resource coordinators, audiologists, nurses, occupational and physical therapists, nutritionists, and speech language pathologists (OSDE, 2012).
The Purpose of the Sooner Start Early Intervention Program
Foremost, it seeks to cater for infants and toddlers with disabilities and other special needs. For example, it offers financial aid in order to establish and execute all-inclusive and harmonized multidisciplinary interagency systems. The systems are utilized in providing early intervention services for children with disabilities as well as their families. Sooner Start program facilitates synchronization of payment for early intervention services. The financial aid is acquired from Federal, State, local, and private sources as well as communal insurance companies. The program enhances capacities required to provide quality early intervention services in order to expand and enhance existing services being utilized in the region. The capacities required by State and local agencies in identifying, evaluating, and meeting Early Childhood Intervention needs are also enhanced through the program. For example, historically underrepresented populations including minority communities, low income earners, and inner city residents as well as rural and foster care children are catered through the program. As a result, the program has encouraged other State agencies to expand opportunities catering for children under three years old at risk of developing substantial developmental delays to seek early intervention services (Carla, 2006).
The Oklahoma Early Intervention Act is required to develop guidelines aimed at providing early intervention services among children with impairments and disabilities in accordance with Part C of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Part H of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act asserts the early intervention services ought to be provided in order to achieve the following goals. Foremost, the services will guarantee development stages are enhanced among children with disabilities and impairments. Educational costs incurred by the society in fulfilling the need for specialized educational and other related services are bound to decrease after children reach school attending age. This will ensure the likelihood of institutionalizing individuals with disabilities is minimized and potential for independent living in the society enhanced and maximized. Families’ abilities to meet children’s needs and requirements will be enhanced while ensuring infants and children with disabilities are assisted through the implementation of comprehensively coordinated multidisciplinary and interagency policies (OSDE, 2012).
Transition from IFSP to an IEP
Children aged between zero and three years require special education services. The services should be provided by an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) as governed under Part C of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. After a child is older than three years old, the special education services should be provided by an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) as governed under Part B of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. According to Cheryl Johnson, transitioning from early intervention to preschool services can be emotionally exhausting for a parent and the child. Thus, children with a disability are more likely to suffer from emotional turmoil as issues intertwined with the impairment and the need to make right choices through uncertainties magnifies the emotional worries. The education process should therefore be welcoming to calm children’s worries, emotional suspicions, and parents’ reservations due to uncertainties (Cheryl, 2011).
Cheryl affirms that, families face difficulties transitioning from family-focused services to early intervention child-centered education programs for various reasons. Family-focused services mandate that, the parent and care giver have to participate as primary decision makers prompting families to develop a natural responsibility towards offering and advocating children’s needs. After attaining more than three years, school-based programs assume the sole educational role. As a result, a child is likely to suffer due conflicting parental and educational priorities and values. Thus, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act advocates for a six month period for smooth transition from early intervention to preschool. During this period, evaluations and meetings as required by law ought to be undertaken for families to avoid feeling coerced or making rushed decisions. The period allows parents to engage additional conversations to gain confidence in the educational services the child will receive at preschool. As a result, feelings of uncertainty among parents ease building confidence and positive relations between families and school personnel as the transition is family friendly (Cheryl, 2011).
Preparing for the Individualized Family Service Plan to Individualized Education Plan transition ought to engage families visiting preschools to collaborate and cooperate with teachers and staffs. An Early Intervention specialist can also accompany families to assist in ascertaining how the transition ought to be carried out. Some preschool staffs prefer meeting families in their homes. Ultimately, this guarantees families and children are prepared to cooperate during transition. Families can also be allowed to take longer than six months for the transition to occur. For example, they can combine family focused services with social experiences, language and early education programs which can take longer than six months. This however will ensure families as well as the children build a positive attitude towards the transition (PPC, 2012).
Successful and consistent communications between families and staffs is vital. Through communication, parents will understand preschool value their inputs prompting them to appreciate significance of preschool. Written information coupled with follow up reviews between families and preschools can therefore guarantee open communication is maintained which is encouraging during the transition. Children with unique communication needs such as those with hearing impairments can be identified prompting the preschool to develop a communication plan accommodating and supporting such needs. Families and preschools can also establish roles and expectations as a team to develop a game plan that is clear and building trust between the two parties. Continued visits at home are hallmarks of Early Intervention Programs. They offer preschool staffs and parents with an opportunity to maintain a reliable, effective and efficient communication process. As a consequence, families and preschool staffs will develop a communication style the child can relate to either at home or in preschool making both environments familiar (PPC, 2012).
Preschools should develop flexible courses and schedules as children entering the program for the first time are hardly prepared for any new experiences. The flexibility will ensure parents prepare children after determining the amount of time to be spent while attending the preschool. As a result, children requiring home-based and preschool programs can be identified for effectual outcomes. Some families establish a support group to share, learn and discover from the diverse experiences. Such groups can incorporate parents with extensive experience to assist new to the transition process. They can develop a strategy of help each other with child caring services such as carpooling and delivery of snacks. They can also remind each other about preschool events and assist in provision of interpreters for children with hearing and language impairments. Preschools can also facilitate kindergarten visitations before the child is admitted to develop rapport with teachers while familiarizing with the school and classrooms. Ultimately, a smooth transition requires families and the preschool staffs to collaborate cooperatively. This will guarantee families clearly converse with staffs regarding children’s needs. As a result, families and preschool staffs will strife in addressing children’s needs and achieve the goal of ensuring children transition while developing socially, emotionally, physically, environmentally and healthily (Cheryl, 2011).
The transition from Individualized Family Service Plan to Individualized Education Plan benefits children, parents, and teachers diversely. Children are able to continue gaining early education experiences. This encourages and supports them to experience new settings openly enhancing self esteem and confidence. They are able to develop enhanced relations with their peers as well as adults while developing a greater sense of trust with teachers. With regards to parents, they are enabled to increase confidence levels that their children are capable of adjusting to new settings. The enhanced confidence improves parents’ self esteem enabling them to communicate with preschool staffs in attempts to positively influence the educational system. They develop a sense of pride and commitment to ongoing Early Intervention educational processes and services. Ultimately, they develop a great level of knowledge and appreciation towards programs providing children with Early Childhood Intervention services (PPC, 2012).
The teachers also reap diverse benefits. For example, teachers increase knowledge through experience on how to ensure children transition smoothly. The teachers are also able to gain increased parental and community support as well as more resources through larger networking with other professionals. They increase awareness on the importance of preschool programs across various communities for children to gain balanced developmental skills across diverse settings. Lastly, the sense of professionalism and pride in their duties and responsibilities is renewed each transition period increasing their efforts to reach out to more families with young children (Cheryl, 2011).
In conclusion, it is evident Early Childhood Intervention services range from family-based to education-based. They should therefore be designed to encourage children to develop under normal circumstances to avoid segregation, discrimination, and prejudice against infants with disabilities and developmental delays. The government should therefore continue supporting families and preschool intervention programs and agencies in assisting children to develop social and emotional balance under diverse settings irrespective of various developmental abilities.
Bureau of Early Intervention (BEI). (2013). Early Intervention to Early Childhood Transition Frequently Asked Questions. Early Childhood Education Division.
Carla, T. (2006). Early Intervention Study: A publication of the Tulsa Area Alliance on Disabilities. Oklahoma Department of Human Services Developmental Disabilities Services Division.
Cheryl, J. (2011). Supporting Families in Transition between Early Intervention and School Age Programs. Special Education Unit, Colorado Department of Education.
David, D., & Mawhinney, H. (2013). Addressing the Inclusion Imperative: An Urban District’s Responses. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 21(61).
Graham, A. (2011). Early Intervention: The Next Steps. An Independent Report to Her Majesty’s Government.
National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (NECTAC). (2011). The Importance of Early Intervention for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities and their Families. National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center Factsheet.
Oklahoma State Department OF Education (OSDE). (2012). Sooner Start, Early Intervention Policies. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part C Early Intervention Services.
PEAK Parent Center (PPC). (2012). Transition from Early Intervention Services (IFSP) to Preschool Services (IEP). PEAK Parent Center Publicati