The purpose of early childhood intervention is to facilitate learning in an infant or young child who is experiencing delays in his or her development. A developmental delay or a potential for a delay is usually the result of a risk factor(s) or documented disability that affects the child's growth and learning in one or more areas of development. No matter the reason, the presence of a developmental delay in an infant or young child suggests the need for intervention delivered by a knowledgeable and skilled early childhood interventionist(s) from a discipline with expertise in early development and interventions. Likewise, a family or caregiver of an infant or young child who receives early childhood intervention can benefit from the knowledge and skills of an early childhood interventionist from a discipline(s) with expertise to help them help their child learn. Over the past 50 years, this rationale has become the impetus for a worldwide commitment to providing early childhood intervention to infants and young children with delayed development and their families.
However, the expansion of early childhood intervention services and programs relies on several conditions that are integral to the effectiveness of such services and programs. These include widespread multiagency and multidisciplinary identification systems for all infants and young children and subsequent intervention systems (if needed) that are individualized to the unique needs of enrolled children and their families. Both aspects of the early childhood intervention process rely on the availability of competent early childhood interventionists from multiple developmental disciplines who can work together across developmental domains with the family and the child. To do this effectively, these interventionists must possess the knowledge and skills to assess, develop, and deliver effective evidence-based interventions to a variety of infants, young children, and families who differ along a myriad of dimensions. These can include background, culture, values, language, socioeconomic status, risk factors or reason for the child's delayed development, and the type and severity of a child's delayed development. This will happen only if those who teach in higher education preparation or professional development programs first use evidence-based adult learning practices with the early childhood interventionists who will be using evidence-based intervention to support the learning of the infants, young children, and families.
In our first article, Naomi L. Rahn, Christan Grygas Coogle, and Jennifer R. Ottley examined early childhood special educators' use of embedded learning opportunities within preschool routines and activities as a vehicle to teach children with disabilities. This evidence-based teaching practice has been in use since the 1970s in various forms and under various names. In this observational study, eight classroom teachers were observed and recorded on their ability to integrate children's Individualized Education Plan (IEP) objectives into typically occurring classroom routines and activities. Teachers showed variability in the use of this practice, and most used instead verbal directives, questions, and modeling of behavior as intervention practices, with a focus on IEP communication goals. Qualitative interviews with the teachers revealed a need for training in this practice as well as more staff members.
Our second article by Kerry Miller, Christine Marvin, and Matthew Lambert examined the early intervention status of low-risk preterm infants who were discharged from a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). A state sample of 3,826 infants and families was compared with the general population of children younger than 3 years. More NICU infants were enrolled in the state Part C program, with length of stay in the NICU being one predictor, as was living in an urban area. The authors recommend that this population of infants be monitored regularly and referred into Part C during their first 3 years.
The next article also focuses on a population of children who received care in an NICU. Serkan Pekçetin, Bağdagül Sarıdaş, Zeynep Üstünyurt, and Hülya Kayıhan examined the sensory processing ability of 118 children who were born preterm in comparison with 158 full-term children when both were 6 years old. The Sensory Profile was used to document the differences that were found between both groups of children's sensory processing status. The preterm children scored lower than the full-term children on all section scores. Preterm characteristics such as weight, gestational age, and length of stay in the NICU predicted sensory processing delays. The authors suggest that children who are preterm should be evaluated regularly to identify sensory issues that could impede learning and development and could be remediated through occupational therapy interventions.
Sensory processing is also the topic in the next article by Katherine M. Walbam. She investigated the relationship of sensory processing disorder (SPD) and attachment with a group of 24 caregivers of children between the ages of 3 and 11 years who lived in five New England states. The children were identified by a licensed occupational therapist as having sensory processing difficulties. Using a mixed-methods design, the 24 caregivers completed questionnaires about their demographic information, a sensory processing profile, and an attachment questionnaire. Twelve of the caregivers also completed a semistructured interview about their children's infant and toddler years. The results of the questionnaires suggested a relationship between three subscales of sensory processing and attachment, though none of the children met criteria for insecure attachment on the attachment measure. The authors suggest intervening early with children identified as having SPD, as this area may impact a child's ability to self-regulate and attach securely to caregivers and others.
Our last study by Alison J. Gerlach and Joan Gignac is a qualitative inquiry into family engagement and well-being in Aboriginal Head Start in Urban and Northern Communities (AHSUNC) in Canada. Semistructured interviews were held with 26 participants that included parents (n = 10), Elders (n = 6), and AHSUNC program coordinators and family workers (n = 10). Although findings documented a strengths and relational approach to family engagement, program staff also acknowledged and accommodated to the broad social and structural factors in families' everyday lives. The authors discussed strategies to positively engage with families who experience multiple social disadvantages, including marginalization.
The articles in this issue represent international authors and new authors. I would like to thank them 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.
—Mary Beth Bruder, PhD