The study of semantics may seem unrelated to the field of early childhood intervention. Yet, semantics has relevance to all aspects of our lives. Our language conveys who we are: our values, our culture and ethnicity, our community and sometimes our profession. Precise and descriptive word meaning enables us to communicate without ambiguity. On the contrary, the use of jargon specific to a situation (e.g., circle time), disciplinary practice (artic), or intervention model (transdisciplinary) demonstrates how semantics and meaning can be idiosyncratic and cause confusion and misunderstandings for both service providers and families.
Three of the articles in this issue address the use of coaching in early childhood intervention. This word has gained increasing popularity in our field, as it is used to describe both a practice and a model. Merriam Webster defines several meanings of the word; its first is a form of transportation! As a transitive verb, the definition states coaching is to train intensively (as by instruction and demonstration). This latter definition is what the field of early childhood intervention uses in practice. It has been further operationalized as both a professional development practice and a service delivery model.
The articles presented in this issue describe different applications of coaching, yet all define similar features of the practice. The caution is not to these authors or others who define the practice of coaching in written documents. Rather, caution is urged to those in the field who use the word verbally, without defining its components, nor describing implementation strategies such as context, intensity, duration, or the coach's competencies and practices.
As the field continues to better define the variables related to effective intervention, coaching and other terms (e.g., team) used in service delivery must always be defined and operationalized. This is a necessity, not only for early childhood administrators and service providers who may use such terms within service delivery, but most importantly for families and caregivers who may have differing lexicons to describe the practices used to help their child learn and develop.
Our first article addresses the most important variable in early childhood intervention: child and family outcomes. Donna Noyes-Grosser, Batya Elbaum, Yan Wu, Kirsten Siegenthaler, Rachel Cavalri, Jennifer Gillis, and Raymond Romancyzk examined the outcomes achieved by two groups of toddlers participating in a state early intervention program. The study included 193 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and 129 with other disabilities. The timeliness of this study is important, as newly released data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has documented that the incidence of children diagnosed with ASD is continuing to increase in the United States. This study used multiple outcome measures on the children and families, including those required for infants and toddlers and their families who receive Part C of IDEA services. Children made progress and parents also reported positive outcomes for themselves. Implications of the findings are discussed within the framework of results driven accountability.
Our next study focuses on the beliefs and practices of early interventionists who coached families with children enrolled in early intervention. Hedda Meadan, Sarah Douglas, Rebecca Kammes, and Kristen Schraml-Block surveyed early interventionists about their use of various aspects of coaching with families, including their perception of the benefits of coaching when engaging families in their child's interventions. Results suggested that early intervention providers found coaching to be meaningful and beneficial for both caregivers and children. Most coaching practices were ranked as highly important and were used frequently by service providers. The survey respondents also identified challenges and facilitators of coaching practices. Recommendations for future research are presented.
Coaching was also the focus of our next article. Mary Donegan-Ritter and Beth Van Meeteren piloted the use of practice-based coaching with Early Head Start infant and toddler teachers in order to support their use of language facilitation strategies. Video-based self-reflection and coaching strategies were used to increase teachers' use of, and fidelity to, evidence-based practices. Coaching strategies included goal setting, individualized support, and performance-based feedback to structure the teacher training. Observational data were used to document the process and outcomes of the teacher training over the course of three monthly coaching cycles and a 6-month follow-up. Teachers improved their skills and their use of evidence-based language interventions. Implications for the use of coaching strategies to improve practice are discussed.
Mary Frances Hanline, Lindsay Dennis, and Amy Warren conducted a qualitative study to examine the perceptions of early childhood special educators who participated in professional development and follow-up coaching on the use alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) in their preschool classrooms. The Multimodal Early Language Development program was focused on the needs of preschool children with complex communication needs. Results of the professional development were positive, and service providers felt they could embed the use of AAC in their preschool special education classrooms after training. Results also suggested that a positive and supportive relationship between the coaches who delivered the professional development and service providers contributed to the outcomes.
Our last article by Catalina Patricia Morales Murillo, R. A. McWilliam, María Dolores Grau Sevilla, and Pau García Grau described a pilot study to examine the internal consistency of 3M Preschool Routines Functioning Scale (3M). Twenty teachers and 285 children from six early childhood education centers in Valencia, Spain, participated in the study. The results suggested strong internal consistency, and an exploratory factor analysis resulted in four factors: Sophisticated Engagement, Personal–Social, Average Engagement, and Independence. Strong correlations among the factors and with the 3M total score, and the strong internal consistency, suggested the scale measured the domain of child participation. Recommendations for the future use of the 3M are suggested.
I would like to thank the authors for submitting their work to Infants & Young Children and the reviewers who assisted the editorial process by offering suggestions to bring these manuscripts to publication. The articles represent international authors, authors from the AUCD network, and new authors.
—Mary Beth Bruder, PhD