Provision for Children from Birth to Six with Special Needs in Ireland

Report by Anne McGough and Dr. Jean Ware. Presentation given by Anne McGough

Introduction

The years from 1990 to the present have seen an unprecedented interest, at policy level, in the education and development of young children in Ireland. Numerous reports and policy documents have highlighted the importance of quality early years educational experience for all young children and have held out the possibility of appropriate provision for children with disabilities and for children who are at risk for reasons of socio-economic disadvantage. Among the most significant developments were the National Forum for Early Childhood Education (1998) and the publishing of the White Paper on Early Childhood Education, Ready to Learn (1999). A landmark development in recent years has been the passing of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act (EPSEN) (Ireland, 2004). This act, for the first time in Ireland, makes provision for young children with special needs a statutory right.

The international literature is unequivocal about the need to support the development of children with disabilities and children who are at risk for reasons of socio-economic disadvantage through effective early intervention programmes which focus on the characteristics of the child, in the context of the family and community. It is widely accepted in the literature that research has proven the general effectiveness of early intervention and is now concerned with the specific needs of individual children and their families. In this regard, two general points are constant in the current literature. For young children with disabilities, the literature points to the challenges involved in delivering an intervention practice which can meet the diverse and complex needs of children and their families (Guralnick, 2005; Wolery & Bailey, 2002; Odom, Vitztum, Wolery, Lieber, Sandal, Hanson, Beckman, Schwartz & Horn, 2004). For children who are at risk for reasons of socio-economic disadvantage or because of minority status or a combination of both, poverty continues to be distinguished, in the literature, as a defining characteristic of young children's lives (Farran, 2000).

This research study was concerned with examining the nature, extent and quality of provision for children with disabilities, and for children who are at risk for reasons of socio-economic disadvantage, in the Irish context. The research was commissioned and funded by the Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education (CECDE) in accordance with their research strategy to undertake and/or commission research, through which best practice in early year's provision can be identified, implemented and evaluated.

The research consisted of a review of the national and international literature on early intervention and an in-depth survey of provision in two geographical regions of the country. The specific objectives of the study were:

  1. To review the literature with a view to identifying the factors which contribute to effective early intervention for children with disabilities and children who are at risk for reasons of socio- economic disadvantage.
  2. To document provision in two geographical areas of Ireland and to provide insights in relation to the nature and quality of that provision in the context of the factors for effective practice identified in the literature review.
  3. To make recommendations in relation to future policy, research and practice in early years provision, for this population of children.

Definition of Special Needs

In the study, children with special needs were defined as those with a range of disabilities and those at risk for reasons of socio-economic disadvantage. This definition was drawn from the Report of the Special Education Review Committee (SERC, 1993). Consistent with the SERC Report, in this study, reference to children with a range of disabilities was intended to include children with mild, moderate, severe or profound general learning disabilities, children with motor impairment, children with sensory impairment, children with language delays and disorders, children with autistic spectrum disorder, children with emotional/ behavioural difficulties and children with multiple disabilities.

Early Intervention: Factors for Effectiveness

The international research literature discusses provision for children with disabilities and those who are at risk for reasons of socio-economic disadvantage in terms of early intervention. The concept of early intervention was born of the need to provide specific programmes of support to vulnerable children and their families at critical early stages of children's development, usually earlier than traditional forms of early education would be available to them (Telzrow, 1992; Barnett, Bell & Carey, 1999; Wolery & Bailey, 2002).

There is now a wide literature on early intervention spanning three decades of research. Within this literature, two phases of research are now commonly identified: first phase or first generational research, which was conducted in the nineteen seventies and eighties, and the current phase, which includes research from the nineteen nineties to date and is described as second generational research. It is now accepted in the literature that the first phase of intervention research established the relevance and efficacy of early intervention in the lives of vulnerable children. In the current phase, the emphasis is on moving beyond the debate on general effectiveness to addressing the specific issues which can guide families, clinicians and educators in the provision and practice of intervention programmes for children with a range of individual and often, very complex needs (Guralnick, 1998, 2005; Wolery, 2000; Farran, 2000; Odom, Vitztum, Wolery, Lieber, Sandall, Hanson, Beckman, Schwartz & Horn, 2004).

In the literature review for the study reported here, the literature from this current phase of early intervention research was examined. In the review, the theoretical perspectives, the principles, and the research evidence that inform current emphases in early intervention, were discussed and a number of proposed models of early intervention were presented. These models (Trivette, Dunst & Deal, 1997; Sameroff & Fiese, 2000; Guralnick, 2001) are a response to the evidence for effectiveness to date. They reflect a consensus about the principles on which interventions should be based and about the components of effective programmes. The agreed principles are that early intervention must be evidence based, must support the child's development in the context of that child's family and community and must integrate the contributions of multiple disciplines and agencies within a web of supports, constituting a programme which is at once comprehensive and uniquely tailored to meet the needs of individual children and their families. A key principle is that the early intervention programme should be developed in partnership with families and should work with them in a dynamic relationship which is characterised by active development of existing family strengths and sensitivity to family culture and to the nature and extent of family needs (Guralnick,1997, 1998, 2001, 2002; Sameroff and Fiese, 2000; Farran, 2000; Wolery, 2000; Wolery & Bailey, 2002).

The components of the intervention follow from these broad principles. Again there is consensus in the literature in this regard. The components are: early assessment of children and identification of risk; family consultation in relation to access to and type of services, including interdisciplinary support; family involvement in services; appropriate levels of intensity in terms of the timing and structure of the intervention, appropriate curriculum and high levels of teacher expertise (Guralnick, 1997, 2002; Wolery & Bailey, 2002). These components include those already identified from the first phase of intervention research, and build upon them to reflect the child and family focus and the concern to match the programme content to the individual characteristics of the learners, which the more recent research outcomes recommend. This emphasis on what is described as closeness of fit or specificity for individual children and families, has brought the focus back to key elements of practice. Among the most critical of these are the timing, structure and intensity of the intervention; practitioner expertise and training; curriculum and pedagogy and partnership with parents and families (Guralnick, 1997; Farran, 2000; Wolery, 2000). The evidence for effective practice in each of these elements is discussed briefly in the following section of this paper.

Timing, Structure and Intensity

In relation to timing, the literature reports intervention programmes focusing on children of varying ages from infancy to age five years with a number of school age programmes continuing through to age eight. In terms of structure, the major distinctions in the literature are between home based and centre based interventions and between inclusive and specialised settings. Intensity can be considered along a range of dimensions including the overall duration of the programme, the size of group and nature of setting, the length of each intervention session and the comprehensive nature of the programme or range of component parts included in it (Maxwell & Bryant, 1997; Farran, 2000). Further dimensions of intensity are the choice of curriculum and pedagogy, the degree to which these are tailored to children's individual characteristics (Goldenburg, 2001) and the intensity of adult child interaction (Guralnick, 1998).

Children at Risk for Reasons of Socio-Economic Disadvantage

Some of the most significant evidence on timing, structure and intensity comes from three intervention programmes for children at risk for reasons of socio-economic disadvantage: The Abecedarian Project, Project Care and The Infant Health and Development Programme (IHDP). The Abecedarian Project and Project Care began in the 1980s and continue to be reported in the literature. The Abecedarian Project recently reported longitudinal outcomes for children at age fifteen (Campbell & Ramey, 1995; Ramey, Campbell, Burchinal, Skinner, Gardner & Ramey, 2000) and age twenty one (Campbell, Ramey, Pungello, Sparling & Miller-Johnson, 2002). The Infant Health and Development Programme was initiated in the 1990s and was aimed at enhancing the cognitive, behavioural and health status of low birth weight and premature infants (Ramey, Bryant, Wasik, Sparling, Fendt & La Vange, 1992).

These programmes are regarded in the literature as among the most scientifically controlled and rigorously investigated studies in recent early intervention research. For this reason, their outcomes afford particular insights into issues of timing, structure and intensity of interventions for children who are at risk for reasons of socio- economic disadvantage.

Both the Abecedarian Project and Project Care provided full day (at least five hours) and full week (five days), year round programmes beginning in infancy and lasting until school entry age. The Abecedarian Project included a three year follow-through, school intervention consisting of a home-school resource teacher who worked with parents and teachers.

In the study, significant differences were found on measures of cognitive development between the control and the intervention children at a number of stages of assessment between age eighteen months and five years (Ramey & Campbell, 1984), and at age eight, significant differences were evident for intervention children on tests of intelligence and on standardised tests of reading and mathematics (Ramey & Campbell, 1991).

Recent longitudinal outcomes show intervention children scoring significantly higher on individual tests of achievement in reading and mathematics at ages twelve, fifteen and twenty one, with fewer grade retentions and special education placements (Campbell & Ramey, 1994, 1995; Ramey et al., 2000; Ramey & Ramey, 2003) and significantly higher scores on intellectual and academic measures at age twenty one (Campbell et al., 2002). Members of the intervention group had significantly more years of total education and were more likely to attend a four year college course (Campbell et al., 2002). An important finding in this study is that the lasting, significant effects were found for the preschool intervention. No significant gains were made by the children who had the school age intervention only and only minimal additional effects were found for following preschool with school age intervention.

Project Care affords insights into an important aspect of the structure of early intervention in that it compared centre based plus home based intervention with home based intervention alone. While the centre based provision produced sizeable gains for the intervention children, the addition of a home based component seems not to have made a significant positive contribution and the children who received the home based only component showed no positive gains from the intervention (Ramey & Ramey, 2003). These outcomes have been attributed to the fact that the home based component did not include activities explicitly designed to affect the child's intellectual competencies through influencing the nature and quality of adult child relationships and interactions.

The IHDP enrolled infants based on low birth weight and prematurity. The intervention was initiated across eight sites in different American cities and was both home and centre based. Children received weekly home visits for the first year and bi-monthly visits thereafter and centre based intervention from the time they were one until they were three years old (Ramey et al., 1992). Assessments at ages two and three showed the intervention group scored significantly higher than the control group on tests of intellectual development (Brooks-Gunn, Klebanov, Liaw & Spiker, 1993).

In the IHDP, intervention generally was more effective for low birth weight babies, for girls and for children whose mothers had higher standards of education (Ramey et al., 1992). Follow up testing at ages five (Brooks- Gunn, McCarton, Casey, McCormick, Bauer, Bernbaum, Tyson, Swanson, Bennett, Scott, Tonascai & Meinert, 1994) and eight (McCarton, Brooks-Gunn, Wallace, Bauer, Bennett, Bernbaum, Broyles, Casey, McCormick, Scott, Tyson, Tonascia & Meinert, 1997) found that most of the early differences between the control and intervention groups had been erased.

Analyses of the programme outcomes have identified issues of structure and intensity as possible explanations for the loss of initial positive effects over time. Insufficient consideration of the complexity of risk facing the families involved, where conditions of poverty were compounded by having a child with serious health problems, is identified as one possible explanation (Liaw & Brooks- Gunn, 1994). The duration of the programme is also cited as a concern (McCarton et al., 1997) as is lack of intensity in relation to the type of curriculum provided and the intensity of its delivery (Liaw et al., 1995; McCarton et al., 1997). A more recent analysis of the relationship between treatment effects and different participation rates has shown that a number of the positive cognitive outcomes which were evident for children at age three can be seen to persist, to age eight, for those children who attended the centre based intervention most regularly (Hill, Brooks-Gunn & Waldfogel, 2002).

Issues of duration and participation have been highlighted also in the Irish context in relation to intervention for children at risk for reasons of socio-economic disadvantage. The evaluation of the Early Start intervention programme (Lewis & Archer, 2002) has identified the length of the day and problems of attendance as militating against achieving the levels of intensity required for programme effectiveness.

Children with Identified Disabilities

Studies of early intervention for children with identified disabilities report great variation in timing and amount of services available to children (Shonkoff, Hauser-Kram, Krauss & Upshur, 1992; Hauser-Kram, Warfield, Shonkoff, Wyngaarden Krauss, 2001; Diamond & Kontos, 2004). In a major study of intervention services provided to children in their first three years of life, Shonkoff, Hauser-Kram, Krauss and Upshur (1992) found that children with Down syndrome are more likely to be enrolled in the first few months of life whereas children with developmental delay are likely to be sixteen months or older on entry to a programme.

Families of children who have a diagnosis of developmental delay report considerable difficulty in getting a service for their children. Because of the often uncertain etiology and diagnosis associated with developmental delay, families are likely to have less information about their children's disabilities and less access to intervention supports specifically related to these children's developmental needs (Keogh, Garnier, Bernheimer & Gallimore, 2000; Hauser-Kram et al., 2001). Amount of services received is often related also to family status with mothers who are poorer and who have lower levels of education, receiving fewer services for their children (Shonkof, Hauser-Kram, Krauss & Upshur, 1992; Diamond & Kontos, 2004).

Centre Based Intervention

In relation to centre based intervention, the nature of the setting is central to issues of structure and intensity. In this regard, the major focus of attention in the literature has been the inclusive or specialised nature of the setting. Inclusive provision is seen as necessary to the practice of egalitarian principles and as having the potential for positive influence on societal perceptions of children with disabilities and equally, for positive influence on ways in which children and families with disabilities perceive themselves (Guralnick, 2001; Odom, 2002; Odom, Vitztum, Wolery, Lieber, Sandal, Hanson, Beckman, Schwartz & Horn, 2004). The literature acknowledges the challenges and the possible tensions inherent in realising these principles in ways which preserve the integrity of the principle of individualisation. This principal is concerned with achieving appropriateness and effectiveness for individual children and their families through matching programme components with child and family characteristics (Guralnick, 2001; Mills, Cole, Jenkins & Dale, 1998).

A small number of studies of inclusive settings have shown positive outcomes in social development for children with hearing impairment (Brown, Remine, Prescott & Rickards, 2000; Antia, Kreimeyer & Eldridge, 1994) and for children with visual impairments (Crocker and Orr, 1996; McGaha and Farran, 2001). In contrast, there is evidence that specialised intervention for young children with language impairments has positive effects on children's immediate development and facilitates their later inclusion in mainstream education (Unwin, Cook & Kelly, 1988; Markowitz, Hebbeler, Larson, Cooper & Edmisten, 1991; Rescorla, Roberts & Dahlsgaard, 1997). Specialised interventions have been shown to be particularly effective for young children with autism (McEachin, Tristam- Smith & Lovass, 1993).

The complexity of the relationship between intervention setting and child characteristics has been most strikingly revealed in studies which have examined the interaction between the structure of the intervention and severity of children's disabilities. Two landmark studies employing a randomized experimental group design (Cole, Mills, Dale & Jenkins, 1991; Mills, Cole, Jenkins, Dale, 1998) examined the effects of differing levels of inclusion on the language and cognitive development of children with mild and moderate levels of disability.

In these studies, aptitude by treatment analyses showed that children with less serious disabilities made more progress in an integrated setting (three typically developing children and eleven children with disabilities) while children with more serious disabilities did better in a specialist (children with disabilities only), and in a mainstream setting (nine typically developing children and five children with disabilities).

Holohan and Costenbader (2000) found that children with milder levels of disability had greater gains on measures of social development in integrated settings, while gains for children with more serious levels of disability were comparable in both integrated and specialised settings.

The findings from studies such as those outlined above are frequently interpreted to mean that young children with disabilities benefit as much from inclusive settings as from specialised education programmes with possible additional social and personal benefits accruing from the inclusive setting. In this regard two points are relevant in relation to the studies quoted above. Firstly the research was conducted in university based, model preschool settings, with deliberately constructed ratios, allowing for high representation of children with disabilities in each of the integrated or inclusive settings and secondly, the early years practitioners had high levels of expertise (Mills et al., 1998).

Practitioner Expertise and Curriculum and Pedagogy

The intervention literature emphasises that particular levels of practitioner expertise are required for appropriate practice in early intervention (Farran, 2000; Wolery, 2000). Teacher qualifications have emerged as a critical factor in a number of studies which have attempted to assess the quality of preschool settings (Buysse, Wesley, Bryant & Gardner, 1999; Buysse, Skinner & Grant, 2001; Siraj-Blatchford & Sylva, 2004). Moreover, the literature stresses the need for the field of early intervention to contribute to understanding and expertise in constructing effective practice in early years settings (Wolery, 2000; Odom et al., 2004).

The existing evidence suggests that varying teaching approaches are differentially effective for individual or for particular groups of children. Accordingly, achieving an appropriate match between child characteristics and teaching and learning environments requires that practitioners can engage in informed selection and modification of curricula and that they have a varied repertoire of teaching strategies, including knowledge of specialised approaches (Cole, Dale & Mills, 1991; Cole, Dale, Mills & Jenkins, 1993; 1995; Yoder, Kaiser & Alpert, 1991; Yoder, Kaiser, Goldstein, Alpert, Mousetis, Kaczmarek, & Fischer, 1995; Daugherty, Grisham-Brown & Hemmeter, 2001; McBride & Schwartz, 2003; Hancock & Kaiser, 2006).

Partnership with Parents and Families

The most immediate and critical learning context for the child is the context of home and family. A constant theme in the current literature is the need to support children in this context through strengthening and supporting families, again striving for closeness of fit between programme features and individual family profiles (Guralnick, 1997; 1998; 2001;2005; Bailey & Powell, 2005; Orsmond, 2005; Sameroff & Fiese, 2000; Barnett, Bell & Carey, 1999). A number of studies and publications have attempted to interpret this very general aim and to identify more specifically the kinds of outcomes that might be expected from an appropriate service to families (Bailey, McWilliam, Aytch Darkes, Hebbeler, Simeonsson, Spiker & Wagner, M. 1998; Turnbull, Turbiville & Turnbull, 2000; Dunst & Bruder, 2002).

While the proposed desired outcomes are articulated from varying perspectives, common themes have emerged. Bailey and Powell (2005) suggest there is consensus on the following goals: Intervention should support and empower families to (i) feel competent to raise a child with a disability;(ii) have a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities according to law; (iii) be capable of accessing services and advocating for services;(iv) be satisfied with the intervention services and have a good relationship with professionals and with the service system;(v) feel hopeful and optimistic about the future and about their abilities to handle future challenges; (vi) experience a positive quality of life for themselves and for their child (Bailey & Powell, 2005).

While the literature identifies the difficulties and vulnerabilities experienced by parents and families of children with disabilities, it also stresses the fact that the majority of families cope well and remain resilient (Barnett, Clements, Kaplan-Estrin & Fialka, 2003). This knowledge is informing the current focus in the literature which is to develop family centred intervention programmes which identify and build upon existing family strengths and which proceed through consultation and parent-professional partnerships (Dunst & Bruder, 2002; Bailey, Mc William, Aytch-Darkes, Hebbeler, Simeonsson, Spiker & Wagner, 1998; Guralnick, 2005; Bailey & Powell, 2005).

Conclusion

In this brief review, the dominant themes in the current literature on early intervention have been outlined, the factors for effective practice have been identified and the evidence for these factors has been discussed. The factors for effectiveness are: the timing, structure and intensity of the intervention; practitioner expertise and training; curriculum and pedagogy and partnership with parents and families. These factors informed the construction and analysis of the questionnaire for the research study which is reported in this paper. In the following section, the methods and procedures for the study are presented.

Methodology

The study reported in this paper was a questionnaire study of two distinct geographical regions of Ireland: one rural (the counties of Cavan, Leitrim and Longford) and one urban (Dublin Community Care Areas Four and Five (CCA 4 and CCA 5)). These two areas were selected to take account of the factors highlighted in the literature as impacting on access to early intervention services. Both regions contained a mix of economically disadvantaged and more affluent areas, established and newer housing. Both regions also included some areas with high proportions of recent immigrants to the country, as access to services for those whose first language is neither English nor Irish is a current issue in Ireland.

Participants

One major issue for the study was the initial identification of service providers, as there is no overall register of ECEC provision in Ireland. Several search strategies were therefore combined in an attempt to compile an exhaustive list of ECEC providers: lists of ECEC providers were obtained from the CECDE and the relevant city and county Childare Committees, the Golden Pages, the list of schools on the website of the Department of Education and Science (DES) and The Directory of Services for People with Intellectual Disability (2003) were hand-searched, and an internet search was conducted using google. In addition, as each potential participant was identified and approached, they were asked to provide contact details for any other local providers. A total of 700 ECEC providers were identified by these means. However, it is still possible, in view of the lack of an overall register, that some potential participants were missed1.

Questionnaire

The questionnaire was divided into four sections. Sections A and B were designed mainly to gather basic information about the provision (sponsorship and funding, nature of premises). Data regarding the children being served (e.g., numbers, age range, disabilities and special needs, number of children from the Travelling community and ethnic minorities and disadvantaged areas) were also requested.

Sections C and D addressed the issues of intensity emerging in the recent early intervention literature as the main factors necessary for high quality programmes:

  • Staff qualifications
  • Curriculum
  • Family involvement
  • Multi-professional services

Careful consideration was given to the language used in the questionnaire. In particular every effort was made to avoid using language, which could be perceived as biased by any particular group of providers. Following advice from others working in the field the term 'disability' was used rather than special educational needs. However, returns showed that some National Schools interpreted this term to mean those with physical or sensory disabilities only.

Piloting

The questionnaire was piloted with a number of experienced Irish providers from outside the regions selected for study who between them represented the range of types of provision available (two preschools for children with disabilities, one Early Start centre, one community preschool for children with disabilities, one commercial nursery, one Naíonra and one private child minder). Some changes were made following piloting to improve the clarity of both the questionnaire and the covering letter.

Main Study

In February 2005 the questionnaire was sent to each of the 700 identified providers along with a covering letter requesting return by March 7th 2005

A follow-up letter was sent immediately after the original return date.

Results

Response Rate

By April 2005 a total of 288 (41%) questionnaires were returned of which 247 were valid responses giving an overall return rate of 35%. All valid data from the returned questionnaires were entered and analysed in SPSS and Excel, as appropriate. The questionnaires were randomly coded with a number (from 1 to 247). In order to ensure anonymity and confidentiality, the names of the providers were not used, and this data was used only for this study.

Of the 247 valid responses, 83 were from school providers, representing a valid response rate of 36% for this sector.

Of the 467 ECEC providers that were asked to participate, 163 completed the questionnaire, giving a valid response rate of 35% among such providers. One of these providers did not give their location, and so could not be included in the area analyses.

This paper reports some of the key findings from the survey, the full report can be found at

http://www.cecde.ie/english/targeted_projects.php

Key Findings and Discussion

Of the 247 providers who returned valid questionnaires, 167 (68%) reported that they had some children with disabilities. Overall, practitioners reported an 8% incidence of identified disabilities with a further 13 % of children believed to have undiagnosed disabilities (See Table 1).

Table 1 Totals of Providers and Children
Total No. of Providers 247  
No. of Providers with children with disabilities 167 (68%)
Total No. of children 9560  
No. of children with disabilities (identified and believed) 2025 (21%)
Total no. of children with identified disabilities 752 (8%)

Provision for Children with Disabilities

A major focus of the study was to map provision for young children with disabilities. Specifically, the concern was to identify whether children with the range of types of disabilities were placed in the range of ECEC settings. As can be seen from Table 2 children with disabilities are placed in most settings across the ECEC sector.


Table 2: Participating Providers with Children with Disabilities

 

Cavan

Leitrim

Longford

CCA 4

CCA 5

Tot. with children with disabilities

Tot. all providers

% of providers with children with disabilities

Provision

N

N

N

N

N

N

N

-

National School

20

18

8

10

9

65

-

82

Special School 4+ years

1

-

-

2

1

4

-

100

BAS

1

-

-

-

-

1

2

50

Crèche

2

3

-

4

10

19

30

63

Nursery

1

-

-

-

3

4

4

100

Playgroup

7

2

7

5

8

29

48

60

Montessori

2

2

-

3

5

12

20

60

Naíonra

-

1

-

-

2

3

6

50

Early Intervention

-

-

-

1

-

1

1

100

Early Start

-

-

-

5

1

6

6

100

Pre- School

2

6

1

3

5

17

29

59

Special Pre-School

-

1

-

-

-

1

1

100

Child Minder

-

-

-

1

-

1

9

11

Health Centre

-

-

-

1

-

1

1

100

Respite Care

-

-

-

1

-

1

1

100

Mobile Crèche

-

-

-

-

-

-

1

0

Family Centre

-

-

-

-

1

-

1

100

Parent and Toddler Group

-

-

-

-

-

0

1

0

Drop In Service

-

-

-

1

-

1

2

50

Total with Children with Disabilities

36

33

16

37

45

167

246

68

Total all Providers

55

44

28

57

62

246

-

-

Percent

65

75

57

65

73

68

-

-

Providers were serving children with a wide range of disabilities including children with moderate general learning disabilities, children with sensory and motor impairment, children on the autistic spectrum, and children with emotional and behavioural difficulties.

The most commonly reported disabilities across all settings were disabilities related to speech and language and mild general learning disabilities (see Table 3).

Table 3 Children with Disabilities Aged 0-6

Identified

Believed

ADHD

49

127

Asperger's Syndrome Autism

41

42

Moderate General Learning Disability

34

20

Fragile X Syndrome

1

1

Mild General Learning Disability

99

186

Severe & Profound General Learning Disability

2

1

Physical Disability

48

4

Sensory Impairment

44

27

Speech / Lang. & Communication Difficulties

289

437

Challenging Behaviour

52

197

Specific Learning Disability

8

4

Difficulty with Literacy

32

115

Difficulty with Numeracy

19

75

Multiple Disabilities

34

37

Total

752 (8%)

1273 (13%)

Overal total of children with disabilities served by participating providers:

2025 (21%)

 



The fact that young children with the range of disabilities are located right across the range of provision presents an enormous challenge to the early years sector to provide the range of services and expertise necessary to meeting children's needs. In this regard, the findings relating to each of the factors for effective intervention present a worrying picture in terms of current practice.

The findings for children with mild general learning disability are interesting and challenging. It is widely accepted in the literature that children with this level of disability are usually identified much later in childhood and are in danger of not receiving appropriate early intervention (Telzrow, 1992; Hauser-Cram et al., 2001). Equally, there is a strong body of evidence to show that early intervention has significant positive outcomes for children with mild general learning disabilities in relation to cognitive, language and social development (Garber, 1988; Dihoff, Brosvic, Kafer, McEwan, Carpenter, Rizzuto, Farrelly, Anderson & Bloszinsky, 1994; Fewell &Glick, 1996; Mills, Cole, Jenkins & Dale, 1998).

In this study, the fact that providers already know that significant numbers of their children have been identified with mild general learning disabilities is a welcome finding in that early identification is a prerequisite for appropriate provision. The challenge here is to match early years practice to the characteristics of the learners and to provide the levels of intensity and differentiated teaching which children with this learning profile require.

As was seen in the literature review, timing of intervention is a critical factor in effectiveness (Dihoff et al., 1994; Campbell & Ramey, 1995) and some of the most effective programmes have focused on children at or before age 3 years (Campbell & Ramey, 1995; Schweinhart, Barnes & Weikart, 1993; Reynolds & Temple, 1998; Kellaghan & Greaney, 1993). In this regard, the numbers of children in the 4 to 6 age group in Primary schools who are believed to have mild general learning disability but who have not yet had a relevant assessment, is a worrying finding in the study.

Since September 2005, a general allocation model of resources for children with special educational needs now operates in all primary schools. This model enables schools to make appropriate provision for children with mild general learning disabilities without a psychological assessment. It is to be expected that this development in the system will ensure that young children who have or who are at risk of developing mild general learning disabilities, will be identified for intervention in their first year at school.

The findings relating to speech and language difficulties and disabilities are also a major challenge to the ECEC sector. Across all settings, difficulties with speech, language and communication were the most frequently reported both as having been identified, and also as suspected, but not yet formally identified. A number of points are relevant here.

Language is a fundamental domain of human learning, the principal meaning making system through which children are initiated into the meaning systems of their cultures. Equally, language acts with the child's developing cognitive processes to construct representations of the world and is a central agent in the development of intellect (Vygotsky, 1962, 1978; Bruner, 1990; Olson, 1996; Moll, 2000). Building on these perspectives, research has identified the role of language in school curricula and, specifically, has linked language competence to literacy learning and to wider school achievement (Olson, 1977, 1996; Snow & Tabors, 1993; Pellegrini & Galda, 1998; Dickinson & Tabors, 2001).

In this context, children with language delays and disabilities are seriously disadvantaged along a range of dimensions of development and are at risk in terms of literacy and school achievement. The research literature is particularly optimistic in relation to early intervention for children with language delays and disabilities. A number of studies show positive outcomes for children in both inclusive and specialised settings when particular curricular and pedagogic approaches are employed (Yoder, Kaiser & Alpert, 1991; Yoder, Kaiser, Goldstein, Alpert, Mousetis, Kaczmarek & Fischer, 1995).

ECEC practitioners can intervene effectively with children across the spectrum of language delays and disabilities but the interventions require a varied repertoire of teaching strategies including knowledge of specialised approaches. Speech and Language therapists have a key role to play in collaborating with practitioners in the design and delivery of interventions. However, the research evidence is that the intervention work needs to be carried out in the context of the on-going interactions and routines of the early years setting and in this regard the onus is on the early year's practitioner.

Timing, Structure and Intensity

The findings from the study indicate that provision for young children with disabilities and for those who are at risk for reasons of socio-economic disadvantage does not achieve adequate levels of intensity. This lack of quality is evident along a range of dimensions of intensity including those related to the structure of provision such aslength of day and group size and those related to curriculum and pedagogy such as staff training and expertise, choice of curriculum, and curriculum adaptation.

Length of Day

The majority of children with disabilities and children who are disadvantaged, in the birth to four age range, are in services where they receive one session of up to 3.5 hours duration, four to five times per week. For older children, what is described as a school day offers 3.5 to 5 hrs. The research literature points to length of exposure to the programme as one of the dimensions of intensity which contributes to effective outcomes for vulnerable children. The findings in this study indicate a need for concern in relation to the length of day available to vulnerable children in early year's services.

Staffing Ratios

Settings with children with disabilities do not appear to have lower child: adult ratios. In fact, many settings for children in the birth to four age range reported high numbers with Playgroups and Montessori settings reporting ratios of 8:1. In school settings the most commonly reported ratio was 25:1.

Staff Training and Qualifications

The majority of staff in ECEC settings hold qualifications at levels 1 to 6 of the National Framework of Qualifications (NQAI, 2005). This places the majority of staff qualifications at below university degree level. There are a small number of exceptions but in general, in provision for children in the birth to four age range, staff with higher level qualifications, NQAI, levels 1-7 (e.g., Bachelors degrees, Higher Diplomas, Masters degrees), are rare. In school settings the majority of staff are qualified at degree level, with the B. Ed. in Primary Teaching the most commonly held qualification.

The levels of qualification of the majority of staff working in the ECEC sector are a serious concern in the study. Practitioner qualifications are directly related to quality for all children in early year's settings with practitioners with higher levels of education having significantly higher ratings along a range of dimensions of quality in a wide range of settings (Buysse, Wesley, Bryant & Gardner, 1999; Palsha & Wesley, 1998). For children with disabilities and those who are at risk for reasons of socio-economic disadvantage, practitioner expertise is a critical factor in mediating the learning environment and constructing the differentiated practices required to meet the complexity of children's needs. In the literature review for the study, a number of studies which reported positive intervention outcomes cited the high levels of practitioner qualifications as a key factor in programme effectiveness (Burchinal, Bailry & Snyder, 1994; Mills, Cole, Jenkins & Dale, 1998, Handcock, Kaiser & Delaney, 2002).

In the light of the fact that 21% of children in the present study either had identified disabilities or were believed to have a disability, the findings in relation to practitioner qualifications suggest that, in terms of practitioner expertise, much of current provision for children in the birth to four age group is seriously inadequate to meeting these children's needs.

Curriculum

The findings for Curriculum type and use suggest that curricula are rarely specifically chosen or adapted to meet the needs of children with disabilities, or consciously differentiated to meet the needs of children at risk for reasons of socio- economic disadvantage. The Early Start settings are the exception here in that the majority use the Early Start Curricular guidelines. What is most evident in the findings is that, across most settings, for children aged birth to six, no significant differences are apparent in the ways in which curriculum is structured for children with and without disabilities or for children who are more or less disadvantaged or at risk.

The findings relating to curriculum reflect the lack of high levels of training and expertise required by early years practitioners providing for vulnerable children. One of the current themes in the research literature is the gap between early intervention research evidence and early years practice. In the main, ECEC practice in Ireland tends to divide along the line of the traditional argument in early childhood development and education. Practitioners for the birth to four age group espouse what is traditionally referred to as a child centred curriculum which is considered to promote child initiated and child directed learning and to be most facilitative of child development in the early years. By contrast, school settings implement a subject centred curriculum with more didactic teaching while also espousing a child centred approach.

The existing evidence suggests that varying teaching approaches are differentially effective for individual or for particular groups of children. Accordingly, achieving an appropriate match between child characteristics and teaching and learning environments requires that practitioners can engage in informed selection and modification of curricula and that they have a varied repertoire of teaching strategies, including knowledge of specialised approaches (Cole, Dale & Mills, 1991; Cole, Dale, Mills & Jenkins, 1993; Mills, Dale, Cole & Jenkins, 1995; Yoder et al., 1991; 1995; Daugherty, Grisham-Brown & Hemmeter, 2001; McBride & Schwartz, 2003). This is the principle of individualisation and the research evidence suggests that to achieve it, practitioners will have to circumvent traditional dogmas and look to the evidence for effective teaching.

Family Partnership

The findings relating to collaboration between providers and families of children with disabilities and children who are disadvantaged, show considerable variability in practice particularly for those providers working with children from birth to four with disabilities. In some of the most frequently used settings such as crèches and nurseries, relatively few strategies for involving families are in regular use.

It is difficult to determine much of the nature of providers' involvement with families from the available data. In overall terms, no significant differences were found in amount of strategies for working with families, between providers who do and do not serve children with disabilities. The need to design interventions based in consultation with families and in assessment of family needs and to tailor the interventions to build on family strengths, was a dominant theme in the literature review. In this regard, the findings suggest the need for a great deal of development beyond what appears to be providers' present relationship with families.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The findings from the study raise a number of serious concerns about the quality of existing provision for children with disabilities and children who are at risk for reasons of socio-economic disadvantage in the birth to six age range. These concerns arise for each of the factors for effective early intervention: Intensity, Staff Training and Qualifications, Curriculum, Family Partnership. There is an urgent need to enhance existing provision in relation to each of these factors and to develop new provisions based on international models of best practice.

In the full report of this study, detailed and extensive recommendations are outlined for practice, policy and research in ECEC in Ireland (McGough, Carey, Ware, Julian & Dissou, 2005). In this paper the most urgent recommendations from the three areas are outlined.

Recommendations for Practice

  • There is an urgent need to enhance practitioners' knowledge of curriculum and pedagogic practice for children with special needs.
  • The length of day needs to be extended in the majority of settings.
  • Clear policies on the family centred aspects of Early Intervention must be developed and implemented by providers of services to vulnerable children

Recommendations for Policy

  • A comprehensive policy on public provision of early intervention services for children with special needs aged birth to six should be developed as a matter of urgency. These services must ensure the availability of a range of provisions including specialist services in the home, mainstream centre-based settings and specialised settings.
  • The National Council for Special Education, in collaboration with the Department of Health and Children, should ensure that children aged birth to four years have appropriate access to a multi-disciplinary professional team including an early years educator with specialist knowledge of interventions for young children with special needs.

Recommendations for Research

  • There is a need to identify examples of good practice and to research strategies for disseminating such practice within the sector.
  • There is a need for further research to:
  • determine the range and extent of children's needs
  • assess the relationship between the characteristics of the children as learners and the nature of the provision they are receiving.

References

Antia, S.D., Kreimeyer, K.H. and Eldredge, N. (1994) Promoting Social Interaction Between Young Children with Hearing Impairments and their Peers, Exceptional Children, Vol. 60, pp. 262-275.

Bailey, D.B.Jr., McWilliam, R.A., Aytch Darkes, L., Hebbeler, K., Simeonsson, R.J. Spiker, D. and Wagner, M. (1998) Family Outcomes in Early Intervention: A Framework for Program Evaluation and Efficacy Research, Exceptional Children, Vol. 64 (3), pp. 313-328.

Bailey, D. B. Jr., and Powell, T. (2005) Assessing the Information Needs of Families in Early Intervention. In Guralnick, M. (ed.) The Developmental Systems Approach to Early Intervention, Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes, pp.151-183.

Barnett, D.W., Bell, S.H. and Carey, K.T. (1999) Designing Preschool Interventions: A Practitioner's Guide, New York: The Guilford Press.

Barnett, D., Clements, M., Kaplan-Estrin, M. and Fialka, J. (2003) Building New Dreams: Supporting Parents' Adaptation to their Child with Special Needs, Infants and Young Children, Vol. 16 (3), pp. 184-200.

Brooks-Gunn, J., Klebanov, P., Liaw, F. and Spiker, D. (1993) Enhancing the Development of Low-Birthweight, Premature Infants: Changes in Cognition and Behaviour over the First Three Years, Child Development, Vol. 64, pp. 736-753.

Brooks-Gunn, J., McCarton, C., Casey, P., McCormick, M., Bauer, C., Bernbaum, J., Tyson, J., Swanson, M., Bennett, F.C., Scott, D. Tonascai, J. and Meinert, C. (1994) Early Intervention in Low Birth-Weight Premature Infants, Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 272, pp. 1257-1262.

Brown, P.M., Remine, M.D., Prescott, S.J. and Rickards, F.W. (2000) Social Interactions of Preschoolers with and without Impaired Hearing in Integrated Kindergarten, Journal of Early Intervention, Vol. 23 (3), pp. 200-211.

Bruner, J. S. (1990) Acts of Meaning, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Burchinal, M., Bailey, D. and Snyder, P. (1994) Using Growth Curve Analysis to Evaluate Child Change in Longitudinal Investigations, Journal of Early Intervention, Vol. 18, pp. 402-423.

Buysse, V., Skinner, D. and Grant, S. (2001) Toward a Definition of Quality Inclusion Perspectives of Parents and Practitioners, Journal of Early Intervention¸ Vol. 24. pp. 146-161.

Buysse, V., Wesley, P.W., Bryant, D.M. and Gardner, D. (1999) Quality of Early Childhood Programs in Inclusive and Noninclusive Settings, Exceptional Children¸ Vol. 65. pp. 301-314.

Campbell, F. A., Ramey, C.T., Pungello, E., Sparling, J. and Miller-Johnson, S. (2002) Early Childhood Education: Young Adult Outcomes from the Abecedarian Project, Applied Developmental Science, Vol. 6 (1), pp.42-57.

Campbell, F. and Ramey, C. (1994) Effects of Early Intervention on Intellectual and Academic Achievement: A Follow-Up Study of Children from Low-Income Families, Child Development, Vol. 65, pp. 684-698.

Campbell, F. and Ramey, C. (1995) Cognitive and School Outcomes for High Risk African-American Students at Middle Adolescence: Positive Effects of Early Intervention, American Educational Research Journal, Vol. 32, pp. 743-772.

Cole, K.N., Dale, P.S., Mills, P.E. and Jenkins, J.R. (1993) Interaction between Early Intervention Curricula and Student Characteristics, Exceptional Children, Vol. 60, pp. 17-28.

Cole, K.N., Mills, P.E., Dale, P.S. and Jenkins, J.R. (1991) Effects of Preschool Integration for Children with Disabilities, Exceptional Children, Vol. 58 (1), pp. 36-45.

Crocker, A.D. and Orr, R.R. (1996) Social Behaviours of Children with Visual Impairments Enrolled in Preschool Programs, Exceptional Children, Vol. 62, pp. 451-462.

Daugherty, S., Grisham-Brown, J. and Hemmeter, M.L. (2001) The Effects of Embedded Skill Instruction on the Acquisition of Target and Nontarget Skills in Preschoolers with Developmental Delays, Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, Vol. 21, pp. 213-221.

Department of Education (1993) Report of the Special Education Review Committee, Dublin: The Stationery Office.

Diamond, K.E. and Kontos, S. (2004) Families' Resources and Accommodations: Toddlers with Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, and Developmental Delay, Journal of Early Intervention, Vol. 26 (4), pp. 253-265.

Dickinson, D.K. and Tabors, P.O. (eds) (2001) Beginning Literacy with Language, Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.

Dihoff, R.E., Brosvic, G.M., Kafer, L.B., McEwan, M., Carpenter, L., Rizzuto, G.E., Farrelly, M., Anderson, J. and Bloszinsky, S. (1994) Efficacy of Part- and Full-Time Early Intervention, Perceptual and Motor Skills, Vol. 79, pp. 907-911.

Dunst, C.J. and Bruder, M.B. (2002) Valued Outcomes of Service Coordination, Early Intervention, and Natural Environments, Exceptional Children, Vol. 68 (3), pp. 361-375.

Educational Research Centre (1998) Early Start Preschool Programme: Final Evaluation Report. Report to the Department of Education and Science, Dublin: Educational Research Centre or author?? ask Celine

Farran, D. C. (2000) Another Decade of Intervention for Children Who are Low Income or Disabled: What Do We Know Now? In Shonkoff, J.P. and Meisels, S.J. (eds) Handbook of Early Childhood Intervention (2nd ed), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 510-548.

Fewell, R. and Glick, M. (1996) Program Evaluation Findings of an Intensive Early Intervention Program, American Journal on Mental Retardation, Vol. 101, pp. 233-243.

Garber, H. L. (1988) The Milwaukee Project: Preventing Mental Retardation in Children at Risk, Washington, DC: American Association on Mental Retardation.

Goldenburg, C. (2001) Making Schools Work for Low-Income Families in the 21st. Century. In Neuman, S.B. and Dickinson, D.K. (eds) Handbook of Early Literacy Research, New York: The Guilford Press, pp.211-231.

Guralnick, M. (ed.) (1997) The Effectiveness of Early Intervention. Baltimore MD: P.H. Brookes.

Guralnick, M.J. (1998) Effectiveness of Early Intervention for Vulnerable Children: A Developmental Perspective, American Journal on Mental Retardation, Vol. 102 (4), pp. 319-345.

Guralnick, M.J. (2001) Social Competence with Peers and Early Childhood Inclusion: Need for Alternative Approaches. In Guralnick, M. (ed.) Early Childhood Inclusion: Focus on Change, Baltimore: Brookes Publishing Co, pp. 531-542.

Guralnick, M.J. (2002) Model Service Systems as Research Priorities in Early Intervention, Journal of Early Intervention, Vol. 25 (2), pp.100-104.

Guralnick, M. (ed.) (2005) The Developmental Systems Approach to Early Intervention, Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.

Hancock, T.B., Kaiser, A.P. and Delaney, E.M. (2002) Teaching Parents of Preschoolers at High Risk: Strategies to Support Language and Positive Behavior, Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, Vol. 22 (4), pp. 191-212.

Hancock, T. B. and Kaiser, A. P. (2006) Enhanced Milieu Teaching. In McCauley, R. J. and Fey, M. E. (eds) Treatment of Language Disorders in Children, Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes, pp. 302-236.

Hauser-Cram, P. Warfield, M. E., Shonkoff, J. P., Krauss, M. W., Sayer, A. and Upshur, C.C. (2001) Children with Disabilities: A Longitudinal Study of Child Development and Parent Well-Being, Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, Serial No.266, Vol. 66 (3), pp1-130.

Hill, J. L., Brooks-Gunn, J. and Waldfogel, J. (2003) Sustained Effects of High Participation in an Early Intervention for Low-Birth-Weight Premature Infants, Developmental Psychology, Vo. 39 (4), pp.730-744

Holahan, A. and Costenbader, V. (2000) A Comparison of Developmental Gains for Preschool Children with Disabilities in Inclusive and Self-Contained Classrooms, Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, Vol. 20 (4), pp. 224-235.

Ireland (1993) Report of the Special Education Review Committee, Dublin: The Stationary Office.

Ireland (1999) Ready to Learn: White Paper on Early Childhood Education, Dublin: Stationary Office.

Ireland (1998) Report on the National Forum for Early Childhood Education, Dublin: Stationary Office.

Ireland (2004) Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act, Dublin: The Stationary Office

Kellaghan, T. and Greaney, B.J. (1993) The Educational Development of Students Following Participation in a Preschool Programme in a Disadvantaged Area, Dublin: Educational Research Centre.

Keogh, B., Garnier, H. E., Bernheimer, L. P. and Gallimore, R. (2000) Models of Child-Family Interactions for Children with Developmental Delays: Child- Driven or Transactional? American Journal on Mental Retardation, Vol. 105, pp.32-46.

Lewis, M. and Archer, P. (2002) Further Evaluation of Early Start: Progress Report, Dublin: Educational Research Centre.

Liaw, F. Meisels, S.J. and Brooks-Gunn, J. (1995) The Effects of Experience of Early Intervention on Low Birth Weight, Premature Children: The Infant Health and Development Program, Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Vol. 10, pp. 405-431.

Markowitz, J.B., Hebbeler, K., Larson, J.C., Cooper, J.A. and Edmisten, P. (1991) Using Value-Added Analysis to Examine Short Term Effects of Early Intervention, Journal of Early Intervention, Vol. 15, pp. 377-389.

Maxwell, K. and Bryant, D. (1997) The Effectiveness of Early Intervention for Disadvantaged Children. In Guralnick, M. (ed) The Effectiveness of Early Intervention, Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes, pp. 23-46.

McBride, B. J. and Schwartz, I. S. (2003) Effects of Teaching Early Interventionists to Use Discrete Trials During Ongoing Classroom Activities, Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, Vol. 23 ( 1), pp.5-17.

McCarton, C., Brooks-Gunn, J., Wallace, I., Bauer, C., Bennett, F., Bernbaum, J., Broyles, S., Casey, P., McCormick, M., Scott, D., Tyson, J., Tonascia, J. and Meinert, C. (1997) Results at Age 8 Years of Early Intervention for Low-Birth-Weight Premature Infants, Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 277, pp. 126-132.

McEachin, J.J., Tristam-Smith, T. and Lovaas, O.I. (1993) Long Term Outcomes for Children with Autism who received Early Intensive Behavioural Treatment, American Journal on Mental Retardation, Vol. 97, pp. 359-372.

McGaha, C.G. and Farran, D.C. (2001) Interactions in an Inclusive Classroom: The Effects of Visual Status and Setting, Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, Vol. 95, pp. 80-95.

McGough, A., Carey, S., Ware, J., Julian, G. and Dissou, G. (2005) Early years Provision for Children from Birth to Six Years with Special Needs in Two Geographical Areas in Ireland, Dublin: CECDE Website, http://www.cecde.ie/english/targeted_projects.php

Mills, P., Cole, K.N., Jenkins, J.R. and Dale, P.S. (1998) Effects of Differing Levels of Inclusion on Preschoolers with Disabilities, Exceptional Children, Vol. 65, pp. 79-90.

Mills, P., Dale, P.S., Cole, K. and Jenkins, J.R. (1995) Follow-Up of Children from Academic and Cognitive Preschool Curricula at Age 9, Exceptional Children, Vol. 61, pp. 378-393.

Moll, L.C. (2000) Inspired by Vygotsky: Ethnographic Experiments in Education. In Lee, C.D. and Smagorinsky, P. (eds) Vygotskian Perspectives on Literacy Research, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp.256-268.

Odom, S.L. (2000) Pre-School Inclusion: What We Know and Where We Go From Here, Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, Vol. 20 (1), pp. 20-27.

Odom, S. L., Vitztum, J., Wolery, R., Lieber, J., Sandal, S., Hanson, M., Beckman, P., Schwartz, I. & Horn, E. (2004) Preschool Inclusion in the United States: A Review of Research from an Ecological Systems Perspective, Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, Vol. 4 (1), pp.17-49.

Olson, D.R. (1977) From Utterance to Text: The Bias of Speech and Writing, Harvard Educational Review, Vol. 47 (4), pp257-281.

Olson, D. R. (1996) Literate Mentalities: Literacy, Consciousness of Language and Modes of Thought. In Olson, D. R. and Torrance N. (eds) Modes of Thought, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp.141-151.

Orsmond, G. I. (2005) Assessing Interpersonal and Family Distress and Threats to Confident Parenting in the Context of Early Intervention. In Guralnick, M. (ed.) The Developmental Systems Approach to Early Intervention, Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes, pp.185-213.

Palsha, S.A. and Wesley, P.W. (1998) Improving Quality in Early Childhood Environments through On-Site Consultation, Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, Vol. 18, pp. 197-205.

Pellegrini, A.D., Galda, L., Bartini, M. and Charak, D. (1998) Oral Language and Literacy Learning in Context: The Role of Social Relationships, Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, Vol. 44, pp. 38-54.

Ramey, C., Bryant, D., Wasik, B., Sparling, J., Fendt, K. and LaVange, L. (1992) Infant Health and Development Program for Low birth Weight, Premature Infants: Program Elements, Family Participation, and Child Intelligence, Pediatrics, Vol. 3, pp. 454-465.

Ramey, C. and Campbell, F. (1984) Preventive Education for High-Risk Children: Cognitive Consequences of the Carolina Abecedarian Project, American Journal of Mental Deficiency, Vol. 88, pp. 515-523.

Ramey, C. T. and Campbell, F. A. (1991) Poverty, Early Childhood Education and Academic Competence: The Abecedarian Experiment. In Huston, A. (ed) Children Reared in Poverty, New York: Cambridge University Press, pp.190-221.

Ramey, C.T., Campbell, F.A.,Burchinal, M., Skinner, M. L., Gardner, D. M. & Ramey, S. L. (2000) Persistent Effects of Early Childhood Education on High Risk Children and Their Mothers, Applied Developmental Science, Vol. 4, pp.2-14.

Ramey, S. and Ramey, C. (2003) Understanding Efficacy of Early Educational Programs: Critical Design, Practice, and Policy Issues. In Reynolds, A., Wang, M. & Walberg, H. (eds) Early Childhood Programmes for a New Century. Washington, DC: CWLA Press, pp.35-70.

Rescorla, L., Roberts, J. and Dahsgaard, K. (1997) Late Talkers at 2: Outcomes at Age 3, Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, Vol. 40, pp. 556-566.

Reynolds, A. and Temple, J. (1998) Extended Early Childhood Intervention and School Achievement: Age Thirteen Findings from the Chicago Longitudinal Study, Child Development, Vol. 69, pp. 231-246.

Sameroff, A.J. and Fiese, B.H. (2000) Models of development and developmental risk. In Zeanah, C. (Ed.), Handbook of Infant Mental Health, New York: The Guilford Press.

Schweinhart, L., Barnes, H. and Weikart, D. (1993) Significant Benefits: The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study through Age 27, Monographs of the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, number 10. Ypsilanti, MI: The High/Scope Press.

Shonkoff, J.P., Hauser-Cram, P., Krauss, M. and Upshur, C. (1992) Development of Infants with Disabilities and Their Families, Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, Vol. 57 (6).

Siraj-Blatchford, I and Sylva, K (2004) Researching Pedagogy in English Pre-Schools, British Educational Research Journal, Vol. 30 (5), pp.713-730.

Snow, C. E. and Tabors, P. O. (1993) Language Skills that Relate to Literacy Development. In Spodek, B. and Saracho, O. N. (eds) Language and Literacy in Early Childhood Education, New York: Teachers College Press, pp.1-20.

Telzrow, C.F. (1992) Young Children with Special Educational Needs. In Getting, M., Elliot, S.N. and Kratochwill, T. (eds) Preschool and Early Childhood Treatment Directions, Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pp. 55-88.

Trivette, C.M., Dunst, C.J. and Deal, A.G. (1997) Resource-Based Approach to Early Intervention. In Thurman, S. K., Cornwell, J. R., and Gottwald, S. R. (eds) Contexts of Early Intervention, Baltimore: Brookes Publishing Co., pp. 73-93.

Turnbull, A. P., Turbiville, V. and Turnbull, H. R. (2000) Evolution of Family Professional- Partnerships: Collective Empowerment as the Model for the Early Twenty First Century. In Shonkoff, J.P. and Meisels, S.J. (eds) Handbook of Early Childhood Intervention (2nd ed), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 630-650.

Urwin, S., Cook, J. and Kelly, K. (1988) Preschool Language Intervention: A Follow-Up Study, Child Care, Health and Development, Vol. 14, pp. 127-146.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1962) Thought and Language, Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978) Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wolery, M. and Bailey Jr, D.B. (2002) Early Childhood Special Education Research, Journal of Early Intervention, Vol. 25 (2), pp. 88-99.

Wolery, M. (2000) Behavioral and Educational Approaches to Early Intervention. In Shonkoff, J. & Meisels, S. (eds) Handbook of Early Childhood Intervention, New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 179-203.

Yoder, P.J., Kaiser, A.P. and Alpert, C. (1991) An Exploratory Study of the Interaction Between Language Teaching Methods and Child Characteristics, Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, Vol. 34, pp. 155-167.

Yoder, P., Kaiser, A., Goldstein, H., Alpert, C., Mousetis, L., Kaczmarek, L. and Fischer, R. (1995) An Exploratory Comparison of Milieu Teaching and Responsive Interaction in Classroom Applications, Journal of Early Intervention, Vol. 19, pp. 218-242.

1 For example, at a presentation of this paper, the authors were informed of an early intervention service for children with disabilities in Leitrim, for which no completed questionnaire was received.

Back to top