Actions speak louder than words. Another adage that challenges us to walk the walk, rather than just talk the talk. That is, we should do something rather than just talk about something.
Most recently, the need for action has been illustrated through the focus on equity in early childhood service delivery. This is challenging because the word “equity” is contextual, sometimes misapplied, and many times not defined. For example, equity is illustrated differently across populations of young children and their families, service sectors, and targeted outcome.
Early childhood intervention (ECI) for infants and young children with disabilities is one service delivery sector where inequity and disparities have been evident. Although our field espouses service components such as interdisciplinary teams, accessible screening protocols, authentic assessments, individualized service delivery plans, inclusive classrooms and communities, and data-based instructional and intervention protocols, many families and their children have been excluded from ECI service delivery models that use these practices. In many cases, these are families who are marginalized in society because of their diverse backgrounds.
There are many reasons for these exclusions from appropriate and individualized intervention services. They range from an undertrained workforce who is facing unprecedented shortages of personnel, to systems that are underfunded and uncoordinated, to practices that are not accessible, appropriate, nor available to families and children from diverse backgrounds. One can also blame the aftermath (we hope) of an unprecedented pandemic that shifted society in many ways and created disequilibrium across all service sectors, including ECI.
No matter what the reason, it is time to address such challenges so that we can create and implement equitable ECI systems for all infants and young children and families eligible for ECI services. For too long, the system has been complacent about service delivery to marginalized populations who represent diverse backgrounds. We must move beyond a call for equity and instead implement actions to correct disparities across systems, programs, and families. We know what we need to do; Equity must be seen as an action verb rather than just a word we embed into our rhetoric.
Our first article by Loraine Swanson, Meera Menon, Amber Minogue, Rebecca Russell, and Scott Berns describes an early childhood system framework developed through observations of system work in states and communities participating in the Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network (ECCS CoIIN). The Network focused on building systems that support increased developmental promotion and screening of young children who experience inequities related to race, place, and income. The proposed framework recognized the individual needs and operations of different service sectors and disciplines, as well as the complexity of the collaborations needed to build a system to meet children's needs. System maturity was identified as a contributing factor to successful collaborations. The authors provide recommendations to programs and communities on the use of the system framework.
Our next article, written by Sema Büyüktaşkapu Soydan, presents a study from Turkey that examined the relationship between children's emotional regulation skills and the role of teaching practices on children's classroom adaptation. A random cluster sampling method was implemented with 250 preschool-age children and 50 preschool teachers. Data were collected through two instruments completed by a child's teacher on child behavior in the classroom and teacher classroom practices. Another assessment was completed by the parents about their child's emotional regulation. The results suggested that emotional regulation skills and intensive teaching practices have a direct effect on child classroom adaptation. Of most importance was the finding that children's emotional regulation skills increased when teachers used intensive social interaction interventions.
Katherine Bateman, Ilene Schwartz, and Ryan Grimm implemented an intervention study to reduce children's challenging behavior. The study provided parent education to 17 parents of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, age 3–7 years. The parent education program used the principles of applied behavior analysis and was delivered 1 hr a week, over 16 weeks. The program followed procedures established by the Project ECHO (Extension for Community Health Outcomes) model of service delivery. Each week, the parents received a one-page handout on the teaching content for the week, and each session contained 20 min of direct teaching delivered by content experts. Parents also reviewed teaching and behavioral strategies with the experts and discussed challenging behaviors demonstrated by their children. The results were measured using a pre/posttest design, and positive changes in parents' senses of competency and empowerment were demonstrated. Parents also felt that the intervention was acceptable, suggesting the social validity and feasibility of this intervention.
Our next article, written by Sophia D'Agostino, Sarah Douglas, and Hedda Meadan, describes a study focused on early intervention providers' perceptions and reported use of compassionate care competencies when coaching caregivers. Although coaching with compassion is a highly valued and studied practice across other disciplines, it has not been prevalent within the field of early intervention. The practices and behaviors in this model prioritize interpersonal skills and relationships with families as a means of increasing child and family outcomes. Seventy-five early interventionists completed an online questionnaire to assess the importance, frequency of use, and confidence of compassionate care competencies within early intervention. The results indicated that most compassionate care competencies were ranked high in importance by the respondents, though some competencies were not implemented frequently, and providers reported less confidence to implement them. Recommendations were provided about the use of compassionate care competencies in early intervention.
Our last article, written by Ya-Chih Chang, Nancy Hunt, and Robin Dodds, focuses on the challenge of transition from early intervention to early childhood special education for culturally diverse parents and service providers. Focus group methodology was used to gather information about the transition from eight families (two groups), five early interventionists (one group), and six early childhood special education teachers (one group), who were all culturally diverse. Through both broad and focused questions, several themes about transition were identified across the groups. These included the following: (1) Feeling lost in transition; (2) Having restricted choices that led to restrictive (noninclusive) placements; and (3) Discontinuity of services and models. These are discussed, and recommendations for improvements in the transition process for culturally diverse families and service providers are provided, including enhancements to teacher preparation programs.
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 suggestions to bring these manuscripts to publication.
—Mary Beth Bruder, PhD