In 1997, Michael Guralnick recommended the use of more sophisticated and rigorous research designs to identify effective interventions for infants and young children with disabilities and their families. Termed second-generation research, Guralnick proposed the need to identify, clarify, and specify the types of program features (intensity, duration, and context of intervention) most effective for subsets of children and families (child type and severity of disability, family ecology), as measured by specific and reliable outcomes. These interactive designs could result in the determination and isolation of specific interventions that contribute to optimal outcomes for specific populations, as measured by specific measures of effectiveness.
As yet, these designs have not been universally implemented; thus, many unanswered questions about effective interventions remain. I am pleased to have a number of articles in this issue that have adopted a second-generation design and demonstrate specificity of program features, child and family characteristics, and outcomes.
Our first article by Batya Elbaum examined outcomes for preschool-aged children who received services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, program. A secondary analysis of state-collected data from this population was conducted with a large sample (n = 17,828). The focus of the analysis was to identify children who demonstrated age-expected functioning in five domains of development when they exited the preschool special education (PSE) program. Most importantly, the study also investigated the extent to which outcomes varied among subgroups of children who differed in the severity and complexity of their delays. These results reinforced the importance of examining and reporting program outcomes for subgroups of children.
The next article by Jeffrey Shahidullah, Susan Forman, Amy Norton, Jill Harris, Mohammed Palejwala, and Anindita Chaudhuri focused on the screening and identification of young children with developmental risk attending childcare settings. A survey was sent to 356 childcare providers who attended a brief training session about developmental screening. Those who returned the survey (51.7% of the trainees) strongly agreed that developmental screening should be conducted in childcare centers and staff should discuss developmental concerns with parents. The authors concluded that brief staff training positively impacted screening practices and could result in the earlier identification of young children in need of early childhood intervention.
Coaching has been adopted into the lexicon of early childhood intervention as an intervention practice, though its implementation can differ by definition, description, and model. Ciera Lorio, Mollie Romano, Juliann Woods, and Jennifer Brown provide information from a scoping review about a subset of coaching strategies that are used with families receiving early intervention. Their review focused on problem-solving and reflective strategies because they build caregiver competency, confidence, and independence. Their results highlighted the varying and incomplete definitions and descriptions of these strategies as used in the literature. The authors recommend the field defines and uses more specificity when using and describing coaching strategies and outcomes.
Catalina Patricia Morales-Murillo, Pau García-Grau, María Dolores Grau-Sevilla, and Beatriz Soucase-Lozano examined child engagement levels with 86 children, between 36 and 72 months of age, and 20 teachers from five early childhood education centers in Valencia, Spain. The variables of interest were child characteristics including emotional difficulties, peer interactions, age, gender, and mothers' educational levels. The results found that age, emotional difficulties, peer interactions, and mothers' educational levels had direct effects on the sophistication level of child engagement. Emotional difficulties mediated the relation between mothers' educational level and children's type and level of engagement, and peer interactions mediated the relationship between type and level of engagement and age. The authors recommend the facilitation of peer interactions in emotionally secure environments as an intervention to promote children's type and levels of engagement.
The last article focused on a subset of children who received early intervention: those with hearing impairment. Zhidan Wang, Xiaoyu Zhu, Frankie Fong, Jing Meng, and Haijing Wang studied the developmental skill of overimitation, among children with cochlear implants or hearing aids, and those with normal hearing. Seventy-two 4-year-old children were shown how to operate novel objects using a series of causally irrelevant actions, followed by a causally relevant action. Children with hearing impairment, or normal hearing, replicated the irrelevant actions at rates above the baseline, though the children with hearing impairment had significantly lower rates. Children with hearing impairments were also less likely to identify and perform the relevant act. The results of this study contribute to the understanding and advancement of interventions to promote social learning and cognition in children with hearing impairments.
I would like to thank the authors who submitted their work to Infants & Young Children, and the reviewers who assisted in the editorial process by giving their time and expertise. The articles represent international authors, authors from the AUCD network, and authors new to the editorial process.
—Mary Beth Bruder, PhD
Guralnick M. J. (1997). Second generation research in the field of early intervention. In Guralnick M. J. (Ed.), The effectiveness of early intervention (pp. 3–22). Baltimore, MD: Brookes.