This paper aims to survey and interview parents of young children with disabilities to document their perspectives on what professionals working with their children need to know. Rather than comparing opinions over time or as part of an outcome study, this paper met with participants at a single point in time for a conversation addressing two questions with implications for training, program development and continuing research, namely, to what extent do families believe the Advancing Community College Efforts in Paraprofessional Training (ACCEPT) standards and topics are important to include in educational programs preparing professionals to work with young children with disabilities in inclusive settings (survey)? How satisfied or dissatisfied are families with the practices of early childhood educators working with their children with disabilities in inclusive and other settings (focus group)? What knowledge and skills do families recommend are important for the preparation of early childhood educators working with children with disabilities in inclusive and other settings (focus group)?
An exploratory design was used to gather information for use in future research and program development and research efforts. Descriptive statistics were compiled for the survey data and focus group interviews were content-analyzed for themes consistent with the project’s eight standards and topics.
Analyzes of survey and focus group interview data indicated that parents/caregivers held consistent views about information and skills needed to prepare teachers and others to work with children with disabilities in inclusive settings. Parents/caregivers were asked to complete a brief survey prioritizing the importance of the eight ACCEPT standards and topics when preparing early childhood educators for working with children with disabilities in inclusive settings. They all (n = 21) rated each standard and topic as “very important” (4) and provided 184 comments during follow-up interviews that represented positive examples, negative examples and recommendations distributed across the eight focusing standards.
This research identified the need for educators to understand the high value and importance of communication with parents of children with disabilities. This study further suggests the need for teachers to value each child’s individual needs and differences for their relationships with children and families to thrive.
This work was supported in part through a cooperative agreement with the US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) Grant # H325N110001. The contents of this paper do not necessarily represent the policy of the US Department of Education and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government. Project Officer, Julia Martin Eile.
This work has not been published previously nor is it under consideration elsewhere.
Swart, K., Muharib, R., Godfrey-Hurrell, K., D’Amico, M.M., Algozzine, B., Correa, V. and Algozzine, K. (2021), "Families of children with disabilities helping inform early childhood education", Journal of Children's Services, Vol. 16 No. 2, pp. 117-131. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCS-11-2019-0045
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