Friday, July 26, 2013

Is There an Ideal Inclusion Proportion?

The Division for Early Childhood of CEC has a position paper on inclusion that includes the following statement:
Ideally, the principle of natural proportions should guide the design of inclusive early childhood programs. The principle of natural proportions means the inclusion of children with disabilities in proportion to their presence in the general population."

The DEC guidance is a philosophical one. No research studies have systematically compared different proportions. About the only things that can be said from research are that (a) inclusion has resulted in increased social and functional skills for children with disabilities, compared to self-contained programs; (b) it has resulted in more altruism and “acceptance” (hard to measure) by children without disabilities, compared to programs with no children with disabilities; and (c) old studies of early childhood special ed settings that might or might not have included children without disabilities (i.e., reverse mainstream, special-ed-oriented classrooms) were of lower quality than were inclusive settings.

So what are ideal ratios? Philosophically, some people, like DEC, say natural proportions. Programmatically, some people like me prefer a setting where there are enough children with disabilities that all children benefit from the good things that come from early childhood special education (e.g., individualization, specialized information to teachers—from therapists or itinerant ECSE teachers, family-centered practices, effective instruction) and retain the good things that come from early childhood education (e.g., developmentally appropriate practice to promote play, emergent literacy and numeracy, and social-emotional development). This percentage of children with disabilities rarely should exceed 50% or it is in danger of becoming too focused on special ed. The key ingredients in an ideal program, then, are the two sets of examples I’ve just given. There is no ideal ratio.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Floortime and the Routines-Based Early Intervention Model

What about Greenspan's Floortime in the context of the Routines-Based Early Intervention model?

Floortime can be used in the context of Routines-Based Early Intervention (RBEI). Often, Floortime practitioners think it's the only thing they should be doing with families, so that would be inconsistent with our primary service provider (PSP) and family consultation approaches. The PSP needs to attend to all child and family needs and needs to use coaching practices (family consultation). Floortime can be what the PSP suggests to the family, for addressing social relationships (one of the three foundational outcomes in the RBEI model), rather like incidental teaching is what we suggest as an intervention method the family can learn.

As the RBEI model matures, I am more and more convinced we should be incorporating parenting strategies, such as talking and reading to the child, behavior management, and effective teaching. I would put Floortime in this category.

Philosophically, I come from a behavioral orientation, and Greenspan comes from a mental-health orientation, but there is more overlap than separation in our approaches.
(In the picture taken from Greenspan's website, I'd rather see the professional in the background and the parent interacting with the child, but this is presumably a publicity shot!)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

After the RBI: Actual Intervention


A colleague told me recently that my models were good for needs assessment but professioanals needed to know what to do during actual intervention. Ouch. The Routines-Based Interview (RBI) has become well known and implemented, but people stop there. They don’t go on to finish the book, so to speak. Here, I explain that it’s what happens after the RBI that’s really important—and that intervention is a huge part of my models, Routines-Based Early Intervention (RBEI) and the Engagement Classroom.


The RBEI model (confusingly close to “RBI”) consists of five components: understanding the family ecology (ecomap development), family-centered needs assessment (RBI), integrated service delivery (primary service provider), support-based home visits (family consultation), and collaborative consultation to child care (individualized within routines). The ecomap and the RBI often go together. To master these is to master finding out what families’ real priorities are for their children and themselves, based on an in-depth exploration of functioning in everyday contexts. The result is a long list of goals designed to increase children’s meaning participation in their routines and to meet family-level needs. But that’s it. And yet that is the springboard for effective interventions. Therefore, in my way of thinking, the RBI is necessary but not sufficient. It is very hard, for example, to use good family consultation, also known as coaching, if you don’t have meaningful, functional things to discuss with the child’s caregivers such as parents and teachers. The RBI sets the stage and was always designed for that purpose; see the original book (now out of print, so good luck), Family-Centered Intervention Planning.
What the RBEI model has to offer after the RBI is a method for organizing service delivery (the primary service provider), a method for conducting home visits (family consultation), and a method for visiting children in their group-care settings (collaborative consultation). These methods are well articulated, they come with supporting materials (e.g., checklists), and they are being successfully implemented in numerous places around the world.

Engagement Classroom

The Engagement Classroom model is a package of practices also but for the running of a classroom. It doesn’t cover all the things a teacher has to consider. For example, it is designed to be used with almost any curriculum and with almost any developmentally appropriate approach. (Although currently I’m inspired by its application with the Reggio Emilia approach.) The Engagement Classroom model features (a) inclusion, (b) incidental teaching, (c) integrated specialized services, (d) functional needs assessment (i.e., the RBI), (e) the zone defense schedule, and (f) engagement data collection. Again, the purposes of the RBI in this model are to assess functional needs by looking at child behaviors in everyday contexts of the classroom (and home) and to produce a set of family-chosen goals pertaining to those needs. Once we have those goals, incidental teaching and integrated services (i.e., therapists and itinerant early childhood special educators) occur meaningfully. Everybody is on the same page, and the focus is on function—engagement, independence, and social relationships (EISR) in the routines of the child’s school day (and home time). The classroom has some organizational features to promote this functioning, such as children of all abilities, the organization of adults, and the organization of classroom space. Adults are trained to focus on EISR.

Price of Success

The success of the RBI has improved the development of intervention plans and has give professionals a tool for working closely with families in that process. The popularity of the interview has overshadowed the other parts of the RBEI and Engagement Classroom models, or perhaps mastery of the first course (i.e., the RBI) has been so filling that the main course has been forgotten about. The metaphor stops there, because a first course is optional, whereas we have found the RBI to be almost a prerequisite to the intervention parts of the models.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Future Early Intervention in New Zealand

In 6 hours, a new map for early intervention in New Zealand was drawn. Leaders from around the country in the Ministry of Education met with me to plan strategically for improvements over the next 5 years. I led the group through a process built on implementation science, developing a logic plan that began with the group's identifying what they want early intervention to result in.

Once we identified the child and family outcomes, we plotted the organizational and systemic "outcomes" as factors to put in place to achieve the child and family outcomes. The group then defined what would constitute high quality practices. We looked at the practices in my Routines-Based Early Intervention and Engagement Classroom models to see if they would address what the group had identified as New Zealand's needs. They then planned timelines for starting to implement these practices and the deadline by which each would be fully implemented. This is a similar process to what we've used in the Northern district of New Zealand and in Montana in the U.S.

Finally, we organized the approval process for the people who've been introduced to the RBI this week.

This was a very productive day--a great way to end a fun, busy week. The Kiwis are committed, friendly, and knowledgeable. The future of early intervention in New Zealand looks bright.