Pass or Fail: Early Intervention Resources
In this multi-part series, I provide a dissection of the phenomenon of retention and social promotion. Also, I describe the many different methods that would improve student instruction in classrooms and eliminate the need for retention and social promotion if combined effectively.
While reading this series, periodically ask yourself this question: Why are educators, parents and the American public complicit in a practice that does demonstrable harm to children and the competitive future of the country?
With early intervention and school-based program resources being scarce, how should service type and delivery be determined?
Intervention Service Delivery
The number of early intervention issues addressed requires the use of a corresponding number of supports and strategies to meet those needs. Several types of professionals, some of them educational specialists, are also employed by early intervention units and by school districts to offer supports. For instance, special educators and itinerant teachers may work alongside speech pathologists and occupational therapists, to name a few.
For early interventions to be effective, there is considerable need for quality service delivery, and service standards should be put in place. The issue of establishing superior services for early intervention supports and strategies has received much attention. One study considered the work of occupational therapists with regard to early interventions and outlined some of the ways in which OT can be most effectively applied.
Another study showed that family-centered and routine-based service delivery was effective in early interventions, but the best approach consisted of a combination of delivery models. Push-in models and pull-out models within school settings can be appropriate for both occupational therapy support and service deliveries. One of the deciding factors, however, is the integration of particular supports within the natural environment, as well as the transfer of specific skills to students, their family members, and other educators and community members. These skills provide the means of facilitating a smooth school transition and long-term academic success.
Early Intervention in the U.S.
The U.S. early intervention model needs to have greater consistency in its supports and strategies. In particular, there is a high variation among school districts and regions regarding resources made available to students based on need. The United States desperately needs national guidelines with regard to levels of support and methods of delivery for students who qualify for early intervention services. There should be some effort to scale need against resources. Identifying students, in all regions, who have the highest level of need, and coordinating supports to ensure those students with the most substantial needs are receiving services accordingly. A related necessity is the development of measures that ensure the proper resources are provided to individual students with specific developmental issues.
The Future of Early Interventions
The interventions need to be able to address behavior, language and communication, emotions, physical conditions, social interactions, and self-care supports, if the needs of all students are to be met. An examination beyond purely academic elements must be made. A child with an autism diagnosis, for instance, and thus a social communication disorder, may not be deemed to have social and communication issues that significantly impact his or her learning. However, based on the usual arc of the disorder, it is probable that such a child will develop academically or educationally significant issues as he or she matures. This occurs as the demands for communication, and socialization increase as the child’s fellow students mature.
A different type of “grading” or “social promotion” policy will emerge if early intervention and school-based supports do not look beyond the immediate situation. Programs must address the outcomes that can, over time, undermine a child’s academic development. Thus, providing social and communication supports in school or early learning environments, in the natural setting where social and communication demands exist, will be an investment in the long-term success of the child.
Would changing the landscape of early interventions and school supports help to cut back on problems associated with retention and social promotion?