The last decade has produced an unprecedented growth of early childhood intervention (ECI) services across the world. This growth has resulted in the realization that our ECI workforce must be expanded and improved to meet the diverse and unique needs of the increasing numbers of infants, young children, and families who are receiving interventions and services. To meet these needs, the ECI workforce must be able to demonstrate both discipline-specific (e.g., occupational therapy, physical therapy) and cross disciplinary (e.g., family-centered practices, intervention planning) competencies. These competencies must be evidence-based and applicable to children displaying a range of ages (birth to 5 years of age), needs (from risk conditions to disabilities such as autism spectrum disorders), backgrounds (socioeconomic status, languages, ethnicities), and service delivery settings (homes to child care settings to inclusive public school classrooms). Adding to this complexity is the breadth, depth, and differences among personnel practice standards used to ensure the quality of ECI service delivery effectiveness.
Almost 20 years ago, Michael Guralnick proposed that intervention effectiveness in ECI be documented through research and evaluation designs that define and isolate features of service delivery that contribute to positive child and family outcomes. He identified three categories of variables that could be isolated, manipulated, and examined individually and collectively. The categories included child and family characteristics, program features, and child/family/program outcomes. Under this rubric, personnel are considered a program feature that can be further defined by the background, training, knowledge, skills, and practices demonstrated by an individual service provider, as well as a team of service providers.
In the last issue of Infants & Young Children (IYC), I restated a commitment as editor to prioritizing the publication of articles that were from new authors, authors from countries outside the United States, and authors from the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD). I also stated that I would be adding a priority on articles about ECI personnel preparation and continuing education examples that would cross disciplines, service levels, and sectors. The application of this area is broad and it will encompass research on personnel preparation practices, as well as research to practice intervention models. Of most interest and value to the field is the identification, isolation, and evaluation variables that positively impact workforce capacity to achieve child and family outcomes.
The first article by Glen Dunlap, Janice K. Lee, Jaclyn D. Joseph, and Phillip Strain describes a systemic intervention model that was designed to reduce challenging behaviors in toddlers and preschool-age children. The Prevent–Teach–Reinforce for Young Children model addresses an extremely important programmatic area in early childhood intervention, as a child's challenging behaviors interfere with both his or her own learning and the learning of other children who may share the same environment (e.g., child care, pre-K class). The article contains information about the history, rationale, and evidence for the practices that define the model, as well as explicit step-by-step procedures to guide the implementation of these practices. Case studies are used to illustrate the interventions, and resources are provided to assist in program implementation. The authors emphasize the need for fidelity to the model procedures and practices to ensure positive child outcomes. The level of detail that is provided in this article is an example of a research to program practice model that enables early childhood interventionists to learn and implement practices that benefit themselves, other children, and the target child in need of intervention.
The next article by Susan Handler Lederer and Dana Battaglia also presents information about the implementation of intervention practices for infants and young children receiving ECI. Their focus was on identification and choice of key word signs (i.e., simple single-word gestures for communication) to facilitate spoken words in hearing children who have language delays. The authors provide an evidence-based rationale for the practices and implementation strategies are included and described. Case studies of children are also provided to further illustrate the intervention practices.
James Earhart and Irina Zamora address an intervention model that is grounded in theory and translated into practice in order to facilitate young children's learning and emotional regulation. Their article contains information about the implementation of a pilot study to promote school readiness and adaptive characteristics in children through improvements in parent–child interaction patterns. Intervention methods targeted the parent–child relationship, individual child and parent factors, and the home environment. Data were collected on the parent–child relationship, child behaviors during play and learning activities, and parental stress levels. A case example of the framework is included, as are results of child outcomes.
Kristin Adler, Sanna Salanterä, Helena Leino-Kilpi, and Barbara Grädel provide a literature review about the needs of parents of young children with special health care needs. The authors focused on the knowledge needs of these families and included both qualitative and quantitative studies in their review. Forty-eight publications were reviewed, and parents' knowledge needs were categorized into nine categories. The review also evaluated instruments to assess these needs. The article concluded that parents have varying knowledge needs at different times of their child's life, and these needs should be assessed and addressed systematically. The authors provide suggestions about how service providers can address parents' knowledge needs and provide information and education to them.
Our next article by Shanna L. Alvarez, Samantha Meltzer-Brody, Marcia Mandel, and Linda Beeber also contains a literature review. The purpose of this review was to discuss the growing significance of maternal depression and the associated child risks that result when mothers have depression. The review concludes that mothers of young children with delays and disabilities are at an increased risk of stress and depression because of their child's special needs. The authors recommend an integration of mental health and ECI services in order to address the needs of families and their young children.
The last article by Theresia Julius Shavega, Cathy van Tuijl, and Daniel Brugman, describes a research study that measured teachers' perceptions of young children's behavioral adjustment, and the relationship of their perceptions to their behavior management strategies and cultural beliefs. One hundred twenty teachers in 60 schools in Tanzania were interviewed and completed questionnaires on their perceptions of children's behavior. A majority of teachers reported having high numbers of children with externalizing behaviors. The authors provide interpretations of the findings and recommendations for educational policy and future research.
As always, I want to thank the authors of the articles contained in this issue for choosing to submit their manuscripts to IYC. I also thank the reviewers who assisted in the editorial process with these articles. This issue contains articles from new authors, authors from the AUCD network, authors presenting international work, and authors who provided research to practice examples that enable practitioners to implement and replicate the methodology and findings of the model procedures.
—Mary Beth Bruder, PhD