Another national tragedy. Our sympathies are again with the victims of a senseless crime. Victims who started the day expecting it to be like any other, albeit with the excitement of a marathon that defines spring in Boston. More violence, more questions, and more need to understand the why and how. Most importantly, more insult to a sense of safety to us all and a threat to our national sense of well-being
Well-being is defined as “the condition of being contented, healthy, or successful.” For young children, a sense of well-being facilitates healthy growth and development. Unfortunately, in today's world, there are many threats to children's well-being, the recent violence in our country but one. Other increasingly present threats include poverty, hunger, lack of health care access, homelessness, acute and chronic trauma, stressed caregivers who may not be able to nurture and protect, and an absence of stable relationships and connectedness to others.
It is no surprise that infants' and children's mental health is such a growing concern and one that has received widespread attention in the wake of our national tragedies. One unanticipated outcome of both Sandy Hook and Boston has been the illumination of the need for interventions to protect children from the immediate- and long-term effects of violence. Perhaps, our field can exploit this focus to raise national awareness about the many challenges that occur in the everyday lives of children that threaten their sense of well-being and resilience.
Resilience is defined as the ability to recover readily from illness, adversity, or the like; the ability to bounce back. Rather than focus energy on reactive interventions for children affected by any of these events, I would like to propose an alternative strategy. That is, our collective energy should be directed on the implementation and sustainability of a comprehensive continuum of early childhood and family programs that nurture, promote, and enhance resilience and well-being of both children and their families. Right now we have the political will and funding to do this through national initiatives such as the Home Visiting Initiative, Race to the Top—Early Learning Challenge Grants, the expansion and improvement of Head Start and Child Care, and a new education programs for all 4-year-olds. Children deserve the support they need to thrive and grow into strong and healthy adults. The future will depend on it.
Our first two articles have two things in common: They address the growing population of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and they are both completed by authors who are affiliated with the LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities) program at their respective universities. Sheryl Dicker is on faculty at the Albert Einstein LEND and has had a long career as a judge and advocate for young children. In her role as a LEND discipline coordinator for Law, Sheryl has continued to advocate as she teaches others about the needs of young children. Her article is a scholarly examination of a multitude of legal issues surrounding early intervention services for those who receive a diagnosis of ASD under the early childhood intervention program of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). She provides an overview of case law and the ramifications of this growing body of work on the decisions made about children with ASD and the services they need. Cheryl ends with recommendations for continued advocacy by parents and caregivers of children with ASD to ensure that early identification and early childhood intervention services expand to meet the needs of this growing population.
Our second article is by a group from the University of Connecticut LEND program. Zheng Song was a physician in China and had come to the United States to receive his MPH. As a LEND student, he grew interested in services for children with ASD in China and chose this as his final LEND project.
Sometimes in the editorial process, a study's submission date precedes the publication of another similar study. This was the case with this article and the article on this same topic that appeared in the last issue of Infants & Young Children (IYC), which was authored by Xueyun Su and her colleagues (IYC, 262(2), 111–125).
The study presented in this issue is also a survey of families with ASD who received services through a nongovernmental organization in and around Beijing, China. The survey assessed the identification process and service delivery experienced by the families. Delays in diagnosis were reported, as were delays in the start of service delivery. Parents reported receiving more support from friends and family members than from formal supports, such as the government. The authors conclude by advocating for the civil rights of those with ASD in this era of great social transformation in China.
Our third article is a study that addresses a population of interest to the field of early childhood intervention. Sarah J. Erickson, Peggy MacLean, Susanne Woolsey Duvall, and Jean R. Lowe provide an article about children at risk for disabilities: those with very low birth weight (VLBW). In this study, 32 toddlers who were VLBW were screened for regulatory issues, using the Infant–Toddler Social and Emotional Assessment (ITSEA). The ITSEA is a multiscreening assessment of regulatory abilities, and this study used the Dysregulation Domain to screen this group of toddlers. The toddlers showed greater overall dysregulation and sensory sensitivity than an ITSEA premature/low birth weight sample. The group of toddlers also demonstrated gender-specific dysregulation profiles when compared with age- and gender-matched full-term toddlers. The authors provide thoughtful recommendations for the use of the ITSEA as an appropriate screening for this population of infants, as dysregulation has been a proven predictor of poor cognitive and behavioral outcomes
Our fourth article is another article that uses a population from China. Johanna Darrah, Maureen O'Donnell, Joyce Lam, Maureen Story, Diane Wickenheiser, Kaishou Xu, and Xiaokun Jin provide information to guide interventions for infants and toddlers who have hypotonia and gross motor delays. As part of an international project to encourage standardized intervention and evaluation of practice, the authors developed a framework to guide services delivered by therapists to young children in China. The framework was conceptualized to align with activity-focused intervention approaches and consider both a child's abilities and the influence of environmental context in the achievement of gross motor skills. The process used to inform clinical decision making was based on the best available evidence and/or clinical experience. The authors' conclude with recommendations about how their process could serve as a model for other clinical tools to aid decision making
Our last two articles focus on families and their role in their children's learning. Philippa Campbell and Catherine Ehret Colleti address two key issues in the field of early intervention in their comprehensive article: in-service training to service providers and home-based interventions. The study was conducted with 78 multidisciplinary early intervention providers who participated in 11-hour training. During this training, they were taught four components of early intervention service delivery, one of which was caregiver teaching. This training contained video illustrations and case studies of five caregiving-teaching strategies. After participating in this training, the providers submitted videotapes of their own implementation of three of these strategies, which were then scored for content and context. The results suggested that the providers were able to demonstrate specific caregiver-teaching strategies under a fixed set of conditions, suggesting the efficacy of the training method and content. The results also described the strategies that were implemented across activities by service providers: Providers spent the most of amount of their time implementing the strategy of caregiver teaching with practice, and play was the most frequently used teaching context. Recommendations for further research about caregiver teaching strategies and relationships to family and child outcomes are provided.
Lastly, Pamela H. Epley examined the relationship between parents' perspectives of early childhood special education (ECSE) and their engagement in everyday learning activities to children's academic and social-behavioral skills in kindergarten. Families of 3,501 children completed a survey, and teachers collected data on the children's academic performance. Findings suggested that although parents' perspective of ECSE and their engagement in everyday learning activities significantly predicted children's academic and social-behavioral skills, the strength of the relationships were limited. Dr. Epley recommends more research be conducted on how to improve academic outcomes of children with disabilities to narrow the achievement gap between them and their peers without disabilities. She further recommends that practitioners utilize ECSE and parents' engagement in everyday learning activities to support the learning and development of young children with disabilities to prepare them for kindergarten.
As always, I want to thank the authors for choosing to submit their exemplary work to IYC and the reviewers who assisted in the editorial process. This issue contains articles from new authors, authors from the AUCD network, and authors presenting international work.
As in all endeavors, mistakes are made. On behalf of IYC and Xiaoyi Hu and Xijie Yang, I would like to apologize to Helen McCabe, PhD. Two citations to her work were unintentionally left out of the article “Early Intervention Practices in China: Present Situation and Future Directions,” which recently appeared in IYC (26:1). These are listed as references below.
—Mary Beth Bruder, PhD