Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Predicting School Readiness for Low-Income Children with Disability Risks Identified Early

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Predicting School Readiness for Low-Income Children with Disability Risks Identified Early

Article excerpt

The development of cognitive, language, and social skills in the first years of life provides an essential foundation for learning more advanced skills throughout the school years. The National Education Goals Panel (1998) aspired to have all children start school ready to learn; this goal has spurred attention to early childhood services. School readiness is generally defined as academic and social competencies that help children have successful learning experiences when they enter school (Mashburn & Pianta, 2006; Rimm-Kaufman & Pianta, 2000; Snow, 2006). Children's academic and social competencies at kindergarten entry are important predictors of success throughout school. Children who enter school not ready to learn struggle with academic difficulties and manifest social and behavior problems in later school years (Duncan et al., 2007; Ladd, 2006).

Children's academic and social competencies at kindergarten entry are important predictors of success throughout school.

Children from low-income families are often significantly less ready for school than their more advantaged peers. At kindergarten entry, the average cognitive scores of children from families with the lowest socioeconomic status are 60% lower than the average scores of those from families with the highest socioeconomic status (Lee & Burkam, 2002). This socioeconomic gap in development is evident early. The effects of poverty on children's development appear at about age 2 and are pronounced by age 3 (Brooks-Gunn & Duncan, 1997; Duncan & Brooks-Gunn, 2000). The early developmental gaps associated with poverty persist even into high school (Duncan, Yeung, Brooks-Gunn, & Smith, 1998). Moreover, the adverse effects of poverty are often more extreme when poverty is experienced during earlier compared to later childhood periods (Duncan et al., 1998; Votruba-Drzal, 2006).

In addition, children from low-income families are more likely to have developmental risks and disabilities that limit their school readiness than those from middle-income families (Brooks-Gunn & Duncan, 1997; Fujiura & Yamaki, 2000; Scarborough, Spiker, Mallik, & Hebbeler, 2004). This finding was evident in the sample of children living in poverty who participated in the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation (EHSRE) project. These children were more than twice as likely to receive Part C early intervention services before age 3 (4.7%; Peterson et al., 2004) than those in the general U.S. population in 2000 (1.8%; National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center, 2007); many more children were identified as having developmental risks that likely would have made them eligible for Part C services though they were not enrolled (Peterson et al., 2004).

Previous research regarding the development of children with developmental risks or disabilities generally has been restricted to studies of children with single conditions. Recent studies of developmental status for children with disabilities have focused on children with specific conditions, such as Down syndrome (Carr, 2005), traumatic brain injury (Hammond, Hart, Bushnik, Corrigan, & Sasser, 2004), low birth weight (Dieterich, Hebert, Landry, Swank, & Smith, 2004), or neuromuscular disease (Lomax-Bream et al., 2007). Although studies of children with specific diagnosed conditions are important, children in poverty are at greater risk for experiencing general developmental delays, as well as a variety of health-related conditions. Relatively little, however, is known about the school readiness of children whose development may be compromised not only by poverty but also by developmental disabilities or biological risks. The purposes of the current study are twofold:

* To compare school readiness at kindergarten entry of low-income children who were identified as having suspected developmental delays or biological risks before age 3 but received no Part C intervention with the readiness of children who received Part C services and those who had no disability. …

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