It is hard to remember that it was only 1 year ago that the 2019 International Society on Early Intervention (ISEI) conference occurred in Sydney, Australia. This world event celebrated the best of the Early Childhood Intervention field. More than 1,000 attendees chose from nearly 300 presentations, including a highly interactive poster session. Central to these presentations and the accompanying networking activities was the Research to Practice conference theme, a complex yet critical topic in our field. This special issue of Infants & Young Children (IYC) highlights three articles by keynotes of the conference, and these were guest edited by Dr. Michael Guralnick, former editor of IYC, and founder and chair of the ISEI.
Unfortunately, this issue of IYC is being published during a devastating period in world history, as the past 6 months has seen the Covid-19 virus wreak havoc on countries, regions, and localities. Thankfully, infants and young children are not being infected by the disease at the same rate as that of adults, though they are being affected by the new world order created by the disease. During this unprecedented time, many families are struggling to stay healthy through social isolation, while trying to maintain basic life necessities such as work (and wages), housing, food, and a sense of normalcy and well-being. Infants and young children are also being negatively impacted by social isolation and its effects by the absence of face-to-face social interaction, and the lack of access to learning opportunities that typically occur in the wider community.
Health care providers and other essential workers on the front lines have deservedly earned admiration and gratitude for their selfless acts in the face of this highly communicable and fatal disease. There are also many other societal helpers who deserve thanks for stepping up to help their fellow humans during this time. One such group is helping the most vulnerable of our population: infants and young children with disabilities and their families.
In the United States, this group includes the administrators and practitioners who provide services to eligible infants and young children under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These administrators of state and local programs have transformed home and classroom intervention programs into tele-intervention programs with unprecedented grace and speed. Likewise, practitioners have learned new knowledge and skills so that they can provide intervention visits to children and their families through phones and computers. Finally, college and university faculty across the country have transformed their teaching and classrooms onto remote learning platforms so that they can prepare the next generation of practitioners to serve infants and young children with disabilities and their families. In my opinion, the early childhood intervention workforce exemplifies the best of what this pandemic has given us: a chance to demonstrate the resilience of the human spirit when faced with adversity and uncertainty, and a chance to make a difference in another human's life.
Our first three articles are presented and summarized by Michael Guralnick, the IYC guest editor for this special section from the 2019 ISEI conference.
The first article (Coral Kemp) provides a thoughtful and realistic analysis of the various ways evidence-based practices are adopted by the early intervention community. These include a specific criterion for determining those practices that are sufficiently evidence-based, the role of stakeholder values, and issues related to practice applications in natural environments. Also discussed are professional training requirements generating the knowledge and skill levels essential for both selection and implementation of effective practices. The benefits of practitioner–researcher partnerships and the importance of data-based decision-making by practitioners in day-to-day activities are stressed.
The second article from the ISEI conference (Michael Guralnick) applies a developmental framework to address the problem of selecting specific early intervention practices to implement in inclusive community-based early intervention programs. Guidance with respect to “what to implement” is provided in the context of a highly integrated conceptual and evidence-based developmental approach. Corresponding decision-making processes to implement selected practices within this framework are discussed. These include determining child goals in the context of family priorities, identifying developmental pathways that can influence those child goals, and selecting and evaluating appropriate evidence-based intervention objectives and activities. A problem-solving process that incorporates developmental science, intervention science, and implementation science in coordination with our knowledge of developmental risk and disability is emphasized.
The third article (Susana Gavidia-Payne) focuses specifically on Australia's National Disability Insurance Scheme. This qualitative study assessed the perspectives of families who experienced this relatively new system of early intervention services, in which families exercise control over available resources and are able to make choices regarding service provision. Despite the promise of this system, this study identified difficulties related to accessing services and the responsiveness of service providers to families, as well as to the system's ability to adequately coordinate services. Concerns regarding parental stress and the use of well-established best practices were also noted. With additional studies employing various methodologies, it is anticipated that information will emerge to guide the system and enable it to realize its early intervention goals.
The fourth article in this issue is by Elizabeth Schaughency, Jessica Riordan, Elaine Reese, Melissa Derby, and Gail Gillon. They provide us with a unique perspective on the effects of trauma on young children and their families. The authors implemented a group literacy intervention with families and preschool-aged foster children who were affected by the Canterbury Earthquakes in New Zealand. The interventions were delivered through workshops and focused on shared reading and parent verbal interactions, with an emphasis on comprehension and phonological awareness. Parent report data suggested positive effects and benefits to the workshops, and the authors provide recommendations about supporting resilience for both parents and their children during times of extreme stress.
Our last article, by Torri Ann Woodruff and Tara Lutz, provides an overview of the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Program (EHDI) within the medical home. The authors discuss how the components of the medical home lend themselves to ensuring every infant and young child can participate in all components of the EHDI program, from screening to diagnosis to treatment. Materials developed by the state of Connecticut are used to illustrate how the medical home can support the purpose of the EDHI program and facilitate the collection of data to document both child and system outcomes.
As always, I would like to thank the authors for submitting their work to IYC and the reviewers who assisted the editorial process by offering salient suggestions to bring these manuscripts to publication. The articles represent international authors, authors from the AUCD network, and new authors.
—Mary Beth Bruder, PhD