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Early Intervention Services and Supports for Disabled Children

For most of the 20th Century, comprehensive educational and social services for young children with disabilities were nonexistent or were provided sporadically at best. For families of children with more severe disabilities, often the only option outside of the family home was institutionalization. As recently as the 1950s, many parents were advised to institutionalize a child immediately after birth if he or she had a recognizable physical condition associated with a disability (such as the Down syndrome) (Feldman, 2004). By institutionalizing a disabled child, the family would not become attached to the child in the hospital or after returning home.

The efforts of parents and professionals to gain national support to develop and implement community services for young children at risk began as early as 1968 while the passage of Public Law (PL) 90-538, the Handicapped Children’s Early Education program (HCEEP). The documented success of HCEEP eventually culminated in the passage of PL 99-457, in the form of amendments to the Education of the handicapped Act, passed in 1986 (Cochran, 2007). Such interventions aimed at bringing about the change that is needed for the disabled infants or the young children. The undertaking of the workshop in regard to the importance of Early Intervention Services and Supports for Children with Disabilities and their Families focused on how critical Early Intervention services and supports are for children with disabilities and their families (McWilliam, 2010). The early investment during the critical birth-5 brain development years provides the foundation that leads to school and community inclusion. The workshop will show why advocating for these priceless services is so critical. I am very supportive of the early intervention services and supports given to children with disabilities and their families.

Within the field of early intervention, transition from one program to another is imminent. Other people have emphasized the dynamic process of transition as a means of effective early childhood intervention. (Bowden, 2009) As such, children with disabilities and their families will have a repeated move among different service providers, programs, and agencies as the child ages. Although formal transition for young children with disabilities typically occurs age 3 (into preschool), transition between services, providers, and programs can also occur throughout these early years. For instance, the notable transition in early childhood intervention begins for some children at the moment of birth if it is determined that their health status requires transfer to a special care nursery and subsequent developmental interventions (McWilliam, 2010).

Children and families in early intervention might experience a number of transitions during the child’s 3 years of life. These transitions include moving from the hospital or neonatal intensive care unit to home; form home to various community settings; and, when the child turns 3 years old, to public school preschool or other community-based resources and supports. In my opinion, I believe that well-developed transition plans should be able to decrease additional assessment and paperwork and ensure that there re no time lags in service provision.

Many families do not realize that their child is automatically eligible for services and supports after they exit the early intervention program. A good transition plan pulls people and information together so that everyone is well-informed and participates in the decision making. Successful transition plans provide families with knowledge and supports to obtain needed resources. Only when families are well informed can they make decisions in partnership with other providers regarding future placement and services (McWilliam, 2010).

 Infants with disabilities, as well as their families, need early intervention services to foster the social aspects of the care giving. Care givers play a crucial role in promoting an infant’s progress in various ways. However, on the most basic level, they may need to learn how to interact with a baby with disabilities. Many infants demonstrate subtle or unusual behaviors that are difficult to interpret (Cochran, 2007). They may be fussy, passive, pr difficult to engage, and caregivers, who may be in the process of making emotional adjustments to the reality of having a child with disabilities, may feel ineffective in their interactions with these infants.

In regard to the division for early childhood workshop that was conducted, I agree with the strategies that were to be undertaken in early intervention services.  For instance, inclusion supports the right of all children, regardless of the abilities, to participate actively in natural settings within the communities. Natural settings are those in which the child would spend considerable time had he or she not had disability (Gargiulo, 2004).

Division for early Childhood (DEC) supports and advocates that young children and their families have full and successful access to health, social, educational and other support services that promote full participation in family and community life. DEC values the cultural, economic and educational diversity of families and supports a family guided process for identifying a program or service.

As young children participate in group settings (such as preschool, play groups, child care, kindergarten) their active participation should be guided by developmentally and individually appropriate curriculum: fostered by Chloe Kondrich’s life. Access to and participation in the age appropriate general curriculum becomes central to the identification and provision of specialized support services (Gargiulo, 2004).

According to DEC, implementation of inclusive practices in the disabled child needs a continued development, implementation, evaluation and dissemination of full inclusion supports, services and systems that are of high quality for all the children. The development of pre-service and in-service training programs that prepare families, service providers and administrators to develop and work within the inclusive settings aims at achieving positive impacts to the society. In addition, collaboration among the key stakeholders in the society to implement flexible fiscal and administrative procedures in support of inclusion is quite evident (Bowden, 2009). Research that contributes to our knowledge of recommended practice and the restricting and unification of social, educational, health, and intervention supports and services to make them more responsive to the needs of all the children and families is well evident in DEC workshop undertaken. Ultimately, it is quite clear that the implementation of the process will lead to optimal development benefit for each individual child and the family as a whole (McWilliam, 2010).

An optimal environment is responsive to an infant’s needs ad interests and provides loving care. Furthermore, according to the transactional model, the adaptation of the environment to promote the infant’s interaction and participation will have a positive influence on the infant’s learning and development. For instance, without early intervention assistance, it may be difficult for the caregiver of a totally infant to determine the infant’s focus of attention, to cuddle the baby, and to provide the basic care. At the same time, the infant cannot respond to the acre giver by meeting the caregiver’s gaze or by molding easily on the care giver’s body when held. In this situation, the infant’s responses do not reinforce the care giver’s interactions, and vice versa. In contrast with early intervention services, physical therapists or occupational therapist will help the caregiver learn how to position and handle the infant; feed, bathe and diaper the baby; and support the infant’s adaptive development (Bowden, 2009).

It is also quite clear that achieving an effective early intervention will lead to the development of infants and toddlers with disabilities, minimizing their potential for developmental delay and recognize the significant brain development that occurs during the child’s first here years of life. In addition, it reduces the educational costs to our society, including our nation’s schools, by minimizing the need for special education and related services after infants and toddlers with disabilities reach school age. It enhances the capacity of state and local agencies and service providers to identify evaluate and meet the needs for all children, particularly minority, low-income, inner city and the rural children.

In contrast to the experience of children suffering from acute illnesses, they are likely to need an array of specialized medical interventions, individualized educational approaches, and community supports to maintain their health, benefit from education, and participate in community life (Cochran, 2007). The families experience their child’s disability in unique ways. As with all families, they know both joys and challenges that change over time. Each of the family members has strengths and needs related to his or her ability to care for the child with a developmental disability. They often rely on support from each other and input from professionals across various disciplines to address their needs for information, intervention, and services. No one professional can realistically provide a range of ongoing specialized services or plan for the individualized supports needed by the child and his or her family. Professional from a number of disciplines must find ways of working as a team to share their knowledge and expertise with families and each other. In our experience, we have found that an interdisciplinary approach and community focus bets meet the needs of the child and family (Cochran, 2007).

Although many factors are hypothesized to explain why some families adjust positively and others experience dysfunction when raising a child with disabilities, I believe that the social support is the key factor in enhancing the adjustment of these families to the impending situation. Social networks supply emotional and instrumental support to individuals and are composed of formally constructed (e.g., service providers and professionals) and informally constructed (e.g., neighbors, friends). Role of social support in the functioning of families of children with disabilities is extensive because social support is often considered being an intervention (McWilliam, 2010). 

As an intervention, social support functions to assist families when it responds to the explicit needs of the family members. I found it clear that for parents with young children having developmental disabilities; hours of early intervention service are related to positive changes in perceived helpfulness of support. By providing increasing links with other families of young children with disabilities and creating access to knowledgeable service providers, programs like intervention enhance the helpfulness of maternal support networks. This, in turn, makes it possible for families to mobilize the resources that are necessary to meet their needs. Social support is not a panacea, however, and increases in social support are only effective in influencing parental well-being and family functioning when parents’ current support networks are inadequate to meet their needs (Feldman, 2004).

According to DEC, the two major goals of early intervention for children with a disability are; to minimize and, if possible, reverse the impact of delays or deficits in normal cognitive development on later school performance; and to support family efforts to achieve desired intellectual, vocational and social outcomes. The second goal, in my opinion, seems to be appropriate for all individuals with intellectual disabilities regardless of age or severity of impairment. It is important to keep in mind that early intervention programs designated for youngsters with intellectual disabilities, regardless of the severity of cognitive impairment, are not designed as ‘anti-mental retardation vaccinations’; rather, they are a first step in a comprehensive, coordinated, and ongoing effort aimed at enhancing the child’s potential in all areas of development (Cochran, 2007). Combating the deleterious effects of intellectual disabilities will require a coordinated effort among parents, professionals, advocates, and government officials.

To these two laudable goals, I would like to add the third objective: prevention of intellectual disabilities. Children may be subjected to increased risk of delayed development and possibly become mentally retarded due to the environmental factors such as poverty and related conditions. Early intervention and social support enhance these families to, effectively, prevent any of these disabilities in their children. In addition, children who are at risk or highly vulnerable for cognitive impairment include youngsters with established risk—that is, children with a diagnosed medical disorder of known etiology and a predictable outcome or prognosis, such as Down Syndrome or fragile X syndrome (Gargiulo, 2004).

Today, many early intervention programs are structured around a concept known as family-centered early intervention. Although the needs of young children with disabilities are an important intervention focus, early interventions and other service providers are becoming increasingly aware that the needs of youngsters are often inseparable from those of their family. Young children with special needs frequently require a constellation of services based not only on their specific needs but also on the differential needs of the family unit (Cochran, 2007). Family-centered early intervention embraces a positive view of the youngster’s family: professional now talk about enabling and empowering families rather than viewing the child and his or her family as having deficits that necessitate intervention to “fix” the problem. The movement away from a deficit model reflects contemporary thinking.

An emphasis on family-centered early intervention characterizes many of the early childhood special education programs, but it is important to remember that the delivery of services is customized to meet the unique needs of the child as well as the family. As such, besides the importance attached to individualization, effective programs are comprehensive, normalized, and outcome based, and provides for interaction between disabled and non-disabled youngsters. These benchmarks are appropriate regardless of the curriculum orientation adapted. Typical approaches include a developmental model based largely on the theorizing of Jean Piaget, an operant or behavioral approach consistent with the work of B. F. Skinner, the Montessori Method, and a functional curriculum representing a hybrid of the first two approaches (Cochran, 2007). 

Consequently, combining children with a disability with all other children under the local authority functions is proclaimed as a major impetus for the integration of disable children, in both law and services. If properly resourced, the available law has duties, regulations and powers, and statements of principle which could be used to improve and enhance the quality of life for many children with disabilities and their families (Feldman, 2004). Every local authority is entitled to provide services designed to minimize the effect on children within their area of their disabilities, and to give such children the opportunity to lead lives which are as normal as possible. Burdened with care pressures and other family stresses, parents too may become unable to give their child adequate care or appropriate handling. Rather than waiting for a crisis to happen, a package of support provision (envisaged by the Children Act) should be set up with the individual family. A crucial preventive function of family support services is to protect the child by ensuring that their carers are sufficiently supported themselves (Gargiulo, 2004).

In conclusion, early intervention for children with disabilities has definite advantages for society, the family, and of course, the child. Early childhood special education can make a significant difference in the quality of life for young children with special needs and their families. In fact, early intervention as a strategy to prevent later problems has almost become conventional wisdom in the society. It is clear that a well-designed early intervention programs produce modest outcomes according to the intended purpose. Thus, I am in full agreement with the Division for early Childhood (DEC) workshop argument that Early Intervention Services and Supports for Children with Disabilities and their Families are important in the society.