Early Identification of Developmentaly Disabled and At-Risk Preschool Children

By Kochanek, Thomas T.; Kabacoff, Robert I. et al. | Exceptional Children, April 1990 | Go to article overview

Early Identification of Developmentaly Disabled and At-Risk Preschool Children


Kochanek, Thomas T., Kabacoff, Robert I., Lipsitt, Lewis P., Exceptional Children


Early Identification of Developmentally Disabled and At-Risk Preschool Children

ABSTRACT: This study examined child-centered data (from birth to 7 years) and familial factors

as possible predictors of disabilities in adolescence. The sample was taken from original

participants in the National Collaborative Perinatal Project in Rhode Island who were also

judged as handicapped after school entry. Results of the current study indicated that parental

traits (i.e., maternal education) are more accurate predictors of adolescent status than the

child's own behavior from birth to 3 years, whereas child-centered skills assessed at 4 and 7 year

of age are better predictors than are familial factors. Overall, data suggest that early

identification models which focus upon developmental delay or adverse medical events from birth to

3 years of age are inadequate in fully identifying children eventually judged to be handicapped.

Screening initiatives must be developed that are multivariate (child and family focused) and

account for differential weights of risk factors over time. * Concern for young children and their families has reached a high level of prominence within the past 2 years. This amplified attention to the early childhood period originates from multiple sources. Research advances in the field of infant behavior have resulted in improved understanding of the learning capacities of newborns, the role of perinatal risk in compromising growth and development, and the enormous impact of life experiences on the psychological development of the infant. Until recently, many parents were led to believe that their infants could not taste fluids, were incapable of sensing odors, and experienced marginal feeling of pain. Studies have indicated that, in fact, neonates are excellent discriminators of taste, and they can detect their mother's own fragrance by 4 days of age (Lipsitt, 1986).

Central to the escalation of interest in young children has been a significant acknowledgement of infants and toddlers with special needs and their families. This attention has both empirical and legislative underpinnings. Many researchers have focused on the outcomes of early intervention programs for infants and toddlers with special needs (Casto & Mastropieri, 1986; Guralnick & Bennett, 1987; White, Mastropieri, & Casto, 1984). This concentrated effort has prompted increasingly sophisticated methodological and statistical analyses (Dunst & Synder, 1986; Dunst, Snyder, & Mankinen, 1987; Shonkoff & Hauser-Cram, 1987). As a result, research has moved from inquiring, "Is it effective?" to an examination of more subtle questions about which factors and their interactions are primary determinants of child and family well being (Coates & Lewis, 1984; Dunst, McWilliam, Trivette, & Galant, 1987).

So persuasive has this body of literature become that the reauthorization of the Education of the Handicapped Act in 1986 (Public Law 99-457, Part H.) included provisions for states to launch major program development initiatives, underwritten by the federal government, so that by 1991, a comprehensive, national early intervention system would result. This legislation granted states considerable latitude in conceptualizing and articulating a system, but did prescribe 14 essential components that must be represented in each statewide plan, including a definition of the population and valid procedures enabling such children and their families to be promptly and accurately identified. Consequently, as states begin to develop operational and functional responses to these stipulations, a significant and complex policy question remains unanswered: To whom should early intervention services be directed?

P.L. 99-457 requires participating states to develop policies ensuring the identification and service of children who experience significant developmental delay or who have established conditions (e. …

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