Providing early intervention in teaching special children enables therapists and educators to identify developmental delays and provide treatment and parent support. Every state provides early interventions services that include evaluation and therapies for children between 0-3 years of age.
The Early Intervention Team
The early intervention team typically includes an occupational and physical therapist, speech and language pathologist, and educator. The child will be assigned to a primary professional depending on his or her area of greatest need. The entire team is involved in the evaluation process and recommending goals and therapeutic strategies to reach them. However, only the primary therapist or educator will work regularly (one or two times a week) with the child to achieve developmental skills.
Goals typically address promoting:
- Cognitive skills
- Gross motor skills
- Fine motor skills
- Sensory processing
- Communication skills
- Social emotional skills
Since these children are so young, skills are rapidly changing and therefore, evaluations are repeated every six months in order to update progress and make new goals. In addition, the team involved in the early intervention in teaching special children plays a critical role in preparing the child and family for transition into a preschool program at three years of age .
Many early intervention programs use tools that address the whole child with therapists using the sections that address their areas of expertise. The Hawaii Early Learning Profile 0-3 (HELP) is one of the best and most widely used early childhood intervention tools because it is an easy to administer check lists of developmental skills in the six domain areas of:
- Expressive language development
- Gross motor development
- Fine motor development
- Social-emotional development
- Self help development
The accompanying HELP Activity Guide provides teaching/therapeutic strategies for each of the 685 skills. Other early childhood intervention tools that assess the whole child include the Brigance Inventory of Early Development (0-7 years) and the Carolina Curriculum for Infants Toddlers with Special Needs (0-3 years). In addition, evaluation tools that look at specific domains include the Peabody Developmental Motor Scales (0-5 years) and Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development (0-42 months), which assess gross and fine motor development, and the Infant/Toddler Sensory Profile (0-3 years), which assesses sensory processing skills.
Early intervention in teaching special children can take place in the child’s home or a learning center. The advantage of working in the child’s home is that the therapist can use the materials that are readily available for carryover by the parent. Children are usually more comfortable in their own homes and the parents are not burdened with transporting one or more children. Facility-based therapists have the advantage of large pieces of equipment such as a suspended swing or trampoline that may not be available in the child’s home. Center-based services often include toddler therapy groups that focus on developing social and communication skills. Parent support groups in a different room may be offered during these sessions.
Therapy groups may be led by various professionals such as a speech and language therapist who promotes language skills during circle time, a physical therapist who leads an obstacle course activity, or an occupational therapist who plans a hand strengthening craft with play dough.
Since the therapy/education team understands each child’s individual learning needs, the members play an important role in teaching parents how to advocate for special education services.
The Hawaii Early Learning Profile ages 0-3 years, http://www.vort.com/products/help_overview.html
The Brigance Inventory of Early Development, http://www.coespecialneeds.ca/earlyintervention/?display=page&pid=25
The Carolina Curriculum, http://www.coespecialneeds.ca/earlyintervention/?display=page&pid=37
Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, https://psychcorp.pearsonassessments.com/haiweb/cultures/en-us/productdetail.htm?pid=015-8027-264&Community=CA_Ed_AI_OT
Peabody Developmental Motor Scales, http://www.proedinc.com/customer/productView.aspx?ID=1783
Infant/Toddler Sensory Profile, http://www.pearsonassessments.com/HAIWEB/Cultures/en-us/Productdetail.htm?Pid=076-1649-549