Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

The Experience of Parents as Their Children with Developmental Disabilities Transition from Early Intervention to Kindergarten

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

The Experience of Parents as Their Children with Developmental Disabilities Transition from Early Intervention to Kindergarten

Article excerpt


In Canada there has been considerable change over the past three decades in early childhood intervention, care and education delivery approaches for young children with disabilities (Crawford, 2005; Irwin, Lero, & Brophy, 2004; Villeneuve, 2011). Young children with developmental delays and disabilities (DD) now frequently attend inclusive early childhood education (ECE) programs and inclusive schools; they are most often educated alongside their non-disabled peers in all contexts (Frankel & Underwood, 2011; Hutchinson & Martin, 2012). Inclusive education aims to support cognitive, physical, and social dimensions of healthy development and has been accepted as best practice for children with disabilities since the 1980's (Koster, Nakken, Pijl, & vanHouten, 2009; Irwin, Lero, & Brophy, 2004; Lupart, 1998). Inclusion is predicated on the belief that all children and families have a right to services within typical environments, is supported by international conventions, provincial legislation and local policies, is guided by sensitivity to the diverse cultural and linguistic priorities of families, and is developmentally based on the unique needs of the child (Frankel, Gold & AjodhiaAndrews, 2010). However, for many families, inclusion of children with DD in regular education brings both successes and challenges (Dionne & Rosseau, 2006; Hutchinson & Martin, 2012). One of the challenges is in assuring that the individual developmental, educational, health and social interventions required by the child and family are incorporated into the inclusive experience.

Since the 1990's there has been growing recognition of the importance of providing professional services and supports in early childhood education for young children with special needs to facilitate the transition to kindergarten (Conn-Powers, Ross-Allen, & Holburn, 1990; Odom, Buysse, & Soukakou, 2011) and recognition that such collaboration facilitates inclusion in regular education programming and classroom routines (Cook & Friend, 1991; Villeneuve & Hutchinson, 2012). Although research recognizes the importance of cross-sector and interprofessional collaboration among healthcare providers, educators and families, limited research has investigated parent experiences of collaboration across the healthcare and education contexts during the transition to school.

Research has documented that parental involvement and satisfaction, and the nature of collaborative work among professionals are often different in early childhood service contexts than they are in elementary school classrooms (Dunst, 2002; Rous, Teeters Myers, & Buras Stricklin, 2007; Therrien, 2008). For example, ECE educators and healthcare professionals, including occupational therapists and speech and language pathologists, tend to play a large role in the services received by children with DD during the preschool years. In contrast, classroom teachers, special educators, and educational assistants play a major role following the transition to school while children with DD and their families tend to have decreasing contact with healthcare professionals (Rous et al., 2007). Successful transitions, that ensure inclusion for these children, require collaboration, not only among the many professionals working with the child and family, but also between these professionals and the family.


This research was conducted by HELPS Inc, a project designed to describe Health, Education, and Learning Partnerships that promote Social Inclusion of young children with DD as they transition from early childhood service contexts into school. HELPS Inc involves a team of Canadian researchers, who represent many disciplines, including early intervention, ECE, education, occupational therapy, psychology, and medicine in three provinces. HELPS Inc committed to advancing our understanding of how parental participation and interprofessional collaboration contribute to effective transitions and successful inclusion of children with DD. …

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