As I write this introduction to our winter issue of Infants & Young Children (IYC), a comprehensive health reform bill has been passed by the House of Representatives! Our country seems well on its way to addressing one of the critical components that supports the well-being of all citizens. Although the late Senator Edward Kennedy was the most well-known proponent of healthcare reform, many others shared his passion. The reform movement bore the mark of those who have shared both a vision and a mission for many years. This shared leadership sustained itself until the recent tipping point at which the citizens of our country created a contagious epidemic of political will toward making healthcare reform a reality.
Leadership has been defined as going before, or showing the way. It has also been defined as guiding direction, course, action, or opinion. Expanding this second definition beyond a single person demonstrating leadership is the notion of shared leadership as defined by Senge (1994). Senge views leadership as the capacity of a human community to shape its future and to sustain the significant processes of change required to do so. Using this definition, it is easy to see the effort it took us to get healthcare reform into Congress.
Early childhood intervention is a field defined by shared leadership. Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was created in 1986, and it contained many provisions in which leadership must be evidenced. These include the building and sustaining of infrastructure supports such as finance systems, qualified personnel and a viable and reliable data system. Unfortunately, IDEA and Part C in particular have never been adequately funded by the federal government. This has created major challenges to states as they struggle to support the intent and integrity of the program.
The field of early childhood intervention has benefitted greatly from our president's stimulus funds. In fact without these funds, it has been reported that 11 states were going to drop out of the Part C federal program because of the growing fiscal burden the Part C is creating within states (Maureen Greer, oral communication, November 7, 2009). One is afraid to predict how contagious this action could be to other states struggling to stay in the Part C program. The hope is that states do not drop out and cause a tipping point for Part C in which more states opt out of the program than stay in.
As a field we cannot let this happen! Let us all commit to sharing responsibility and leadership and work with Congress, state governments, and local programs to ensure the fiscal stability necessary for Part C to be implemented as it was designed almost 25 years ago. It is clear that the intent of Part C is to provide a system of quality and effective supports and services for all eligible children and their families. To make this a reality, we should be reaching out to our colleagues in early childhood to join forces for all children, so all may have a community-based continuum of service intensities to meet their needs. The time to do this is now, as we look down the road to a future without stimulus funds. We cannot let the reduction of these funds be the catalyst to tip the Part C program over.
The articles in this issue of IYC offer a wealth of scholarly, insightful, and practical information. I am pleased that we have submissions from university centers for excellence in development disabilities education, research, and service (UCEDD) programs, one primary author who is new to publication, and one article that originated in Portugal.
Our first article provides a conceptual framework for organizing a hierarchy of evidence-based interventions. Lise Fox and her colleagues, Carta, Strain, Dunlap, and Hemmeter, describe the Pyramid Model developed through their work on social emotional and behavioral development in young children, and its tiered approach to intervention. They then apply this tiered approach to Response to Intervention (RtI) methodology. RtI is applied as a decision-making process for individualizing instruction and applying more intense intervention as a student warrants. RtI can be used across a variety of content areas, and this article provides concrete examples and guidance on the systematic application of RtI as a tiered intervention to other domains of behavior.
Our next article also provides guidance to practitioners, administrators, and policymakers in the field of early childhood intervention. Written by the authors of the Ages and Stages Questionnaires (ASQ), Bricker, Squires, and Clifford remind us about the purpose of assessment and the fact the ASQ was designed and validated as a screening assessment. Nonetheless, the large number of items on the ASQ makes it easily applicable to other uses in assessment, and the authors offer guidance to those who wish to use it in different ways.
The third article addresses personnel development within one state that instituted an apprenticeship model to enhance the competencies of early intervention practitioners. Applequist, McLellan, and McGrath address the components of a comprehensive system of personnel development and how these were applied within their state. They provide insight into the specific challenges they faced when implementing this model. They then a provide recommendations to the field on the implementation of an apprenticeship model in a Part C system.
The fourth article is an international submission from Portugal. Aguiar, Moiteiro, and Pimentel present a study that examined the social acceptance of preschoolers in inclusive classrooms. Using 64 classrooms, the authors found that classroom quality was not related to children's social acceptance peer ratings. Only chronological age and severity of disability predicted social acceptance, suggesting a need to improve adult-child relationships in these classrooms. Lastly, the article discusses children's social acceptance within a cultural perspective as an application for practice.
The fifth article by Pizur-Barnekow, Doering, Cashin, Patrick, and Rhyner focuses on a study of functional health literacy with a group of mothers: their ability to read and interpret medical information. Using the Short Test of Functional Health Literacy, 50 mothers of children enrolled in early intervention demonstrated adequate functional health literacy. The authors describe their results in relationship to difficulties parents have reported using early intervention program literature and provide guidance to early intervention programs and practitioners on literacy applications for parents for parents.
Our last article by Stack, Serbin, Enns, Ruttle, and Barrieau provides a thoughtful commentary on children's emotional development. The domain of emotional development has been called the foundation of all early learning because most social tasks encompass self-management, self-control, and adaptive behavior. These authors provide an in-depth examination of the emotional competency literature across the lifespan. In particular, the article summarizes longitudinal research on children's emotional development, evaluates research that examined the role of parenting behaviors on children's emotional competency, describes how emotional development affects children's overall functioning, and examines parental influences on the emotional development of children with disabilities. This article closes with recommendations on the role that emotional development plays in social, educational, and health policy.
I hope all of you enjoy your holidays and begin 2010 with a commitment to leadership and positive change so we don't lose the foundation of service delivery we have created in the Part C system.
Mary Beth Bruder, PhD