It has been a summer of concern for our country's most vulnerable citizens. As Congress faced a deadline by which the country's debt ceiling had to be addressed, partisanship and special interests exacerbated the differences among those in charge of keeping us fiscally solvent. Some wanted to raise revenue by revoking some of the Bush era tax provisions that benefited the wealthiest in our country, while others wanted spending cuts across entitlement programs for those in need. The cuts would occur across education, research, and service programs aimed at alleviating quality-of-life disparities experienced by the old, the poor, those with disabilities or chronic illness, and other disenfranchised classes in our society. It was difficult to watch those we have elected to make decisions for the good of our country, so unable to compromise. As the summer progressed, it became clear that the debate over how to reduce our national debt was a barometer of our legislators' inability to examine alternative solutions, to agree on concessions, and to compromise for the greater good.
While most of the country breathed a sigh of relief when the Budget Control Act of 2011 was passed and thus alleviated a fiscal default, those of us who work with populations vulnerable to program reductions could only anticipate the many challenges ahead. As part of the budget act, a joint legislative committee of 12 members is charged with identifying 1.3 trillion dollars in deficit reductions over the next 10 years. Congress must approve the committee's plan by December 23, 2011, or fiscal reductions across all federal programs will occur, including those for the most needy.
Infants and young children are one of the vulnerable segments of society who will be affected by program reductions. The latest figures from the Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2011 Kids Count data book have documented that 1 in 5 children now live in poverty. This will come as no surprise to anyone paying attention to the current recession, as there are many more families living in poverty as a result of increasing unemployment. In July 2011, only 58.1% of Americans older than 16 years were employed, which means that 29 million Americans were out of work. As we are all well aware, poverty is an established risk factor that compromises a child's development and a family's overall quality of life.
In the coming year the values of our country will be tested in ways we have not experienced in quite a while. Infants and young children living in poverty are but one segment of the population who will be affected by future budget reductions. We are also faced with the growing reality that the programs and services we have fought for and established for those with disabilities and their families will be in jeopardy, as will their current and future welfare. It is apparent that the political landscape, particularly the elections of 2012, will be dominated by the nation's economy. We hope that those we elect will demonstrate values and actions that result in compromise and budget decisions that will benefit the good of all, especially our most vulnerable.
Our articles in this issue focus on issues related to families and their children. Our first article presents an overview of screening and assessment instruments for infants and young children with sleep problems. Karen A. Bonuck and her colleagues discuss the need for early identification and intervention in this area, as they describe the link between sleep problems and developmental disorders. In a thorough review of current instruments used in early intervention (EI) and early childhood special education (ECSPED), these authors present data that document that most do not adequately assess either behavioral or respiratory-related sleep disorders. This critical finding documents the need to address how EI/ECSPED staff can identify sleep insomnias and sleep-disordered breathing in infants and young children eligible to receive services under IDEA, so that effective intervention plans can be developed.
Our next article by Robin Ridgley and her colleagues focuses on Individual Family Service Plans (IFSP). A professional development model was designed to assist service providers in the planning, development, and decision-making process for IFSPs. The model was built to enhance a state model that uses online IFSPs in its Part C system. The process used to develop the model is described, as is a pilot conducted to assist in the validation of the model.
Stephanie Y. Patterson and Veronica Smith conducted case studies of 4 parents of young children with autism who were trained through the Hanen's More Than Words program and this comprises the next article. The parents identified several themes for improvement in the program. These included having explicit child and parent program expectations, more individualized one-on-one modeling and parent-to-parent contact to navigate the overwhelming content, and more sensitivity to the emotional aspects of having a newly diagnosed child with autism. Implications for those using the program with this population of children are discussed.
Our next article also addresses the population of children with autism spectrum disorders. Aubyn C. Stahmer and colleagues discuss the earliest identification of these children younger than 3 years. The authors present the rationale for using a community-based approach for early identification and evidence-based practice with this population. They conducted focus groups with families and multidisciplinary groups of community providers to identify values about EI for infants/toddlers at risk for autism spectrum disorder and their families. Both qualitative and quantitative methodology was used to analyze the results, which suggested that the values of community providers and parents were highly similar and were in concordance with evidence-based practice.
Our last article by Ziviani, Feeney, and Khan discusses parents' perception of service satisfaction and family-centeredness in early childhood intervention. One hundred twelve families of children who have physical disabilities were administered a number of assessments. Overall the families reported being satisfied with early childhood services and there was a significant positive relationship between parents' perceptions of family-centered practice and satisfaction with services. The family-centered practices were identified as coordinating comprehensive care and providing general information. The authors discuss the implications for early childhood interventionists who provide services to families.
As always, I thank the authors for their contributions and those Editorial Board members who provide the comprehensive reviews that resulted in the articles in this issue. We are committing to another year of focus on contributions from new authors, international authors, and authors from the AUCD (UCEDDs and LENDs) network. This issue has authors representing these 3 areas.
I would also like to acknowledge the contributions that Drs Ann Kaiser and Barry Prizant have made to Infants and Young Children. Both are stepping down from the Editorial Board because of professional obligations that limit the time they have to review manuscripts. On behalf of the journal, I extend my gratitude to them both.
I would also like to welcome the following new members of the Editorial Board: Dr Karin Lifter from Northeastern University, Dr Jeanette McCollum, Professor Emerita, from the University of Illinois, and Dr Jeanne Wilcox from Arizona State University. These board members will be joining the stellar editorial group that has assisted me in managing the journal. I thank them, as well as the rest of the Editorial Board, for committing to the next year of service to IYC.
—Mary Beth Bruder, PhD