And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's historic inaugural address, most of us remember this often-quoted phrase. As a child of the 60s, his was the first presidency I remember; highlighted by its brevity and the national tragedy of its end. This year the anniversary followed another national tragedy: the horrific shooting of a congresswoman and other bystanders in Arizona. As a result of this most recent tragedy, many have questioned the current state of American politics, and in particular, the growing lack of civility in our country between those with opposing beliefs. The juxtaposition of these events two weeks apart compelled me to read President Kennedy's full inaugural address. As I did, I was struck by the following:
So let us begin anew—remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.
Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.
Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals….
Civility has been described as the act of showing regard to others. President Kennedy's call for civility is as important today as it was in 1960. It was within this context that he called for serious and precise proposals to address the problems of 1960 and beyond. His presidency left a legacy of such proposals, many of which are in existence today. For example, one of his first acts in office was to establish the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. He followed this in 1961 by appointing the President's Panel on Mental Retardation. This panel was charged with creating a blueprint for a comprehensive federal approach to address mental retardation, so that one of our most vulnerable populations could benefit from all America has to offer. In 1963, he introduced a series of legislative initiatives that had been developed by the panel, and they included programs for maternal and prenatal care, initiatives for moving away from institutions to community-centered agencies, and plans for the construction of research centers that would include diagnostic, clinical, and treatment services, including special education, training, and rehabilitation. This last initiative created the national network of University Centers of Excellence for Developmental Disabilities Education, Research, and Service that exists in every state today. These programs serve as part of President Kennedy's legacy, though this year, we are facing unprecedented challenges to their continuation.
This is largely as a result of budget shortfalls at the local, state and national levels. As a field, our goal must be the maintenance of these programs that affect infants and young children with special needs and their families. Only then will we be able to continue to build upon President Kennedy's charge to create a community-based system of supports and services to benefit all young children and their families. Most importantly, we must remember his call for civility and his words of encouragement as we strive to reach a common ground, in the midst of the hard choices we will be facing.
In President Kennedy's words: The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country….
Our first article focuses on one of the most important issues in our field today: accountability. Stephen J. Bagnato and his colleagues provide us a model to measure service delivery variables, in particular, time or dosage of intervention. The article provides a methodology that can be used by practitioners and researchers to measure the effects of intervention in the context of how much intervention is delivered. This methodology is illustrated through a description of dosage and progress data of 1350 children. The article provides a conceptualization, a framework, and tools from which we can continue to build the evidence base for early childhood intervention.
Our next article by Scarborough, Hebbeler, Spiker, and Simeonsson provides us another measure of accountability through a longitudinal study of children participating in early intervention. The authors focused on child outcomes during early intervention and later at kindergarten. The authors used survival analysis with a group of children who participated in the National Early Intervention Longitudinal Study. This methodology provides evidence of the importance of early precursors of later school achievement.
The next two articles focus on our growing population of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Cardon, Wilcox, and Campbell conducted a study to collect information about the challenges parents report when including their children with disabilities in everyday routines. One hundred thirty-four families who reported their children as having ASD/pervasive developmental disorder completed a survey about the challenges of their caregiving activities and routines. In addition, they were asked whether assistive technology (AT) was used in any of these activities and routines. The results suggested that families had difficulties in all activities and routines, in particular with the child's ability to participate in the routine. Less than half of the caregivers reported using AT to assist in their children's participation. Caregivers also reported that they had very little support in training on the use of AT.
The next article by Ostryn and Wolfe focuses on increasing the functional communication of 3 young children with ASDs. The authors investigated whether they could assist young children who were using augmentative and alternative communication systems to communicate with vocal questions of Wh-questions. Three nonvocal young children were taught question-asking behaviors using pictures. The children were taught how to use the question “What's that?” All reached criterion and were also able to generalize this skill across settings, persons, and stimuli.
The next two articles focus on the importance of screening in early childhood intervention. The first study focused on the feasibility of implementing a population-based screening tool for fetal-alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Watson and her colleagues provide information and evidence as to the need to identify children who have FASD as early as possible, as this syndrome may go undetected until a child enters school. They have designed and implemented a brief screening tool to identify children most at risk for having disabilities related to FASD. These authors provide a rationale for utilizing such a tool routinely within early childhood intervention programs.
The second article provides evidence about the Turkish version of the Ages and Stages Questionnaire. The authors investigated whether the screening tool could be used appropriately in Turkey to identify children with social-emotional problems. Kucuker et al provide sensitivity and specificity data on 608 mothers who completed the Age and Stages Questionnaires: Social Emotional. The authors then provide information about the use of the tool in Turkey to appropriately screen and then, if necessary, refer young children for further assessment and intervention.
All of these articles contribute to the interdisciplinary evidence base for early childhood intervention. I thank the authors for allowing Infants & Young Children to disseminate their work as we attempt to broaden our vision across vulnerable populations of infants and young children, professional disciplines, and countries across the world.
Mary Beth Bruder, PhD