Services for Infants, Toddlers, & Preschoolers
Toddlers and preschoolers with special needs often benefit from attending programs designed and staffed with their needs in mind. In most infant and preschool special needs programs, there are many specialized professionals who have gone through extensive training to work with such children.
In some cases, children may be provided services at home (Schweinhart, et al.. 1986). This is more often true for children less than two years old or those who are severely physically impaired. Many home-based services are parent-oriented and emphasize professional staff who train parents how to interact most effectively with their children. Some home-based programs are child-oriented and emphasize professionals who provide direct intervention with the child. Sometimes, these children may also receive therapy services at a regular daycare or preschool program (Wasik, Ramey, Bryant, & Sparling, 1990).
There is a growing trend for home-based and center-based programs to be family-systems oriented. This orientation is child-centered and parent-centered when the entire family system is provided intervention services. Individualized service plans for each child are developed based on each child and family member's needs within a family ecology context. In all types of early intervention programs it is necessary to help the child adapt to fit the environment and to change the environment to fit the child's needs. This process is referred to as ecological congruence (Thurman, 1977).
One advantage of receiving services within a daycare or preschool environment is that children frequently benefit by interacting with other children. They learn a great deal from observing and modeling the behavior of peers and adults. Children who have developmental delays benefit from opportunities to interact with children who do not have delays (Johnson, Pugach, & Devlin, 1990). They also need opportunities to gain confidence in their abilities and strengths within the context of the real world and through interactions with a variety of people (McDonnell & Hardman, 1988).
Therapy services may be provided at sites designed specifically for children with special needs, called self-contained classrooms, or in a setting with children who have special needs and those who do not, referred to as an inclusion classroom. Self-contained classrooms typically include a special teacher who provides most of the daily instruction to students who are segregated in a special class. For these children it has been deterrmined that a self-contained classroom provides the least restrictive environment. Children with moderate to severe delays may learn most effectively in self-contained classrooms, although the ultimate goal is to integrate these children into regular classes.
In all forms of service delivery parents should be important contributors to their child's education. Parents benefit from opportunities to meet and interact with other parents of children with special needs. Programs designed to meet the needs of children who are developmentally delayed should provide the help needed to create these opportunities (Gural nick, 1991).
In a center-based program, children may receive therapy intervention within the classroom or may be pulled out for therapy outside of the classroom. Therapy is also provided within the context of classroom activities (Johnson et al., 1990). For example, occupational therapy goals could be practiced while the child is playing at a sensory table, physically exploring different materials such as sand or rice. Speech therapy could occur during an informal child-adult play interaction.
All children need a chance to achieve basic problem-solving skills, acquire tools for effective communication, develop a capacity to persist at tasks, and acquire a positive attitude about the process of learning. Research indicates that a center-based program is helpful because learning is often maximized when children are interacting with each other (Dunst, Snyder, & Mankinen, 1989).
Services for Children with Developmental Delays
Early interventions services provided for young children with developmental delays include:
- Early identification, screening, and assessment services
- Medical, diagnostic, and evaluation services
- Service coordination
- Special educational instruction
- Speech and language pathology and audiology
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Psychological services
- Social work services
- Vision services
- Nursing services
- Nutrition services
- Health services
- Assistive technology devices and services
- Transportation and related costs
- Family education programs, support groups, and home visits
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