Happy spring! Since the 1980s, interdisciplinary personnel preparation models have been identified as unique and necessary for effective early childhood intervention (ECI). However, we are still grappling with the operationalization, implementation, and sustainability of both preservice and in-service learning opportunities that cross disciplines, are competency based, and are measured for efficacy with infants, young children, and their families. In the last Infants & Young Children (IYC) issue, I stated that I would be adding a focus on articles about effective ECI personnel preparation and continuing education models. I am pleased to offer four articles in this issue that were written specifically to address our need for knowledge in this area.
The Early Childhood Personnel Technical Assistance Center (ECPC) is funded by the Office of Special Education, U.S. Department of Education, to assist states to develop integrated and comprehensive systems of personnel development across all disciplines and sectors that serve children (aged birth to 5 years) with disabilities and their families. One of the objectives of the ECPC is to bring together professional disciplinary organizations to facilitate the development of a set of unified personnel standards that can be used across states, and institutions of higher education to prepare all personnel to serve infants, toddlers, and preschool children with disabilities and their families. Thus far two national meetings of the following professional organizations have occurred: the Division for Early Childhood (DEC), Council for Exceptional Children (CEC); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA); and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). The first activity undertaken by these organizations was to identify the unique role and competencies that each discipline contributes to ECI and to identify overlapping roles and competency areas that cross disciplines. This information is presented in the first four articles of this issue. I am pleased to have such important work to offer the readers of IYC.
Our first article by Vicki Stayton addresses the use of personnel standards to guide both preservice and in-service training opportunities for early childhood special educators who provide ECI services. She describes the initial and advanced personnel standards developed by the CEC to accredit college and university preparation programs for special educators. She also describes the initial and advanced specialty standards developed by the DEC of the CEC to guide the early childhood special education preservice and in-service programs. The article then highlights the personnel standards developed by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and other professional associations (e.g., AOTA, APTA, and ASHA). Stayton concludes with the recommendation to align personnel standards across professional disciplines in ECI so that infants and young children and their families can be served most effectively within the inclusionary and interdisciplinary service delivery models that prevail today.
Our next article provides an overview of occupational therapy's unique contribution to ECI. Mary Muhlenhaupt, Kris Pizur-Barnekow, Sandra Schefkind, Barbara Chandler, and Neil Harvison describe the role of occupational therapists (OTs) in ECI to enhance families' caregiving capacity to increase their young children's participation in home and community settings. The authors describe both the discipline-specific and shared competencies (across disciplines) that OTs learn to prepare them to be members of service delivery teams in ECI. Recommendations for entry-level and continuing professional and interprofessional education for both discipline-specific and cross-disciplinary competencies are provided.
The third personnel preparation article describes the professional development of pediatric physical therapists (PTs). Tricia Catalino, Lisa A. Chiarello, Toby Long, and Priscilla Weaver highlight the unique knowledge and skills that pediatric PTs offer to the ECI team as movement specialists. They also provide an overview of PT licensure requirements and personnel competencies. The unique challenges of providing physical therapy services in natural environments are discussed, as are recommendations for future personnel preparation activities in physical therapy such as mentorships and interdisciplinary team-based learning opportunities.
Patricia A. Prelock and Janet Deppe next describe the role of the speech–language pathologist (SLP) in ECI, including the knowledge and skills required to practice as an SLP. As preservice education with a specialty focus in ECI is limited for SLPs (as with other related service disciplines), interprofessional education opportunities at both preservice and in-service levels are recommended to best serve the needs of infants, young children, and their families. Several resource documents from the ASHA are shared for use as guidelines in ECI.
The next article by Tamie Aubin and Patricia Mortenson highlights the unique challenges of using a service delivery team approach in ECI. Although a transdisciplinary approach of sharing and collaborating across disciplines and interventions for infants and young children and their families is considered best practice, there is limited information for professionals on how to successfully move into such a service model. The authors conducted a qualitative study using in-depth interviews with six service providers and managers who took part in the implementation of two transdisciplinary teams. Three main themes were identified across the interviews: the importance of staying true to organization values during the change process; ensuring participants' awareness of the change process; and using the change process to highlight continued learning.
Our last article by Marisa Macy, Stephen J. Bagnato, Robert S. Macy, and Jen Salaway is a research synthesis of the literature on the most frequently used conventional tests in ECI. Forty-four studies were identified, allowing the authors to explore the technical adequacy of the assessments related specifically to ECI eligibility determination. In addition, early childhood professional standards for developmentally appropriate assessment were applied to the assessments to determine their fit with ECI philosophy, purpose, and practices. The results of these analyses suggest the limitations of these conventional tests for the purpose of early intervention eligibility determination. Implications for professional practice in early childhood assessment and eligibility determination are described.
I want to thank the authors of these articles for choosing to submit their work to IYC, as well as the members of the editorial board who reviewed the manuscripts and provided feedback to the authors. I especially want to thank the professional organizations for their contributions to this issue as well as their continuing commitment to the field of ECI and the work of the ECPC. The DEC, CEC, the AOTA, the APTA, and the ASHA continue to maintain high standards for their members as they serve infants, children, and their families. I also want to acknowledge our continued commitment to publishing works by authors from countries outside of the United States and from the AUCD network.
Finally, I want to alert the readers to an upcoming announcement about a special IYC issue in collaboration with our colleagues from the International Society on Early Intervention. To follow up on our last international issue on ECI across the world, we will be soliciting manuscripts on preschool inclusion across the world for publication in 2016.
—Mary Beth Bruder, PhD