Last week, the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) released its newest position statement: The Role of Special Instruction in Early Intervention (PDF, New Window). I was fortunate to be the chair of the workgroup that developed this statement after 2 years of intensive work. Cori Hill, my colleague here in VA, also served on the workgroup, along with dedicated professionals representing former special instructors, administrators, therapists, faculty, students and parents from 10 other states. Our goal was to help define the important role played by the special instructor on the EI team and make recommendations for best practices for these providers. This work grew out of consistent calls from DEC’s membership and others in the field to raise the bar on special instruction and reiterate the value of this service.
The Value of Special Instruction/Developmental Services
In Virginia, we call special instruction “developmental services.” In other states, it’s called specialized skills training, developmental therapy, etc. Regardless of what you call it, special instruction is often an undervalued service within the array of early intervention services. We suggested possible reasons for this in the position statement, and I also wrote about it in another blog post I wrote for DEC about the development of the statement (follow the link for more info).
One of the reasons for the undervaluing of this service that our workgroup identified was this: special instruction is not recognized as its own discipline. Physical therapists provide physical therapy and receive a degree in this discipline. Speech-language pathologists get their “CCCs” and provide speech therapy. These professionals are recognized as having specialized training in their discipline. Depending on a state’s requirements, special instructors have varying levels of education, from a minimum of a high school diploma to a Master’s degree, depending on your state. Across states, there are also disparate requirements for professional backgrounds, knowledge and skills for those who provide this service, from few to very specific requirements. It might just be this lack of specificity that is what undervalues our work. I strongly believe that it’s time to re-examine this as a field and am so happy to have been a part of the development of DEC’s stance on this issue. I’m hoping that this statement starts some conversations about this service and those who provide it. Even if we can’t make special instruction a discipline, we can develop the respect for this role as a highly qualified professional who is a valuable member of the early intervention team, no matter the state in which he or she practices.
Okay, I’ll step down off my soapbox now. 🙂
What Do YOU Think?
I’d love to know what you think about how special instructors are viewed on your early intervention teams:
Do you find that special instructors/developmental service providers are valued as having expertise? Is the service you provide viewed as equally valuable as other EI services? Of course, the decision about which service is most appropriate for a child and family is a team decision that’s based on the IFSP, but in general, think about the role that special instruction/developmental services plays in your program.
Do you see special instruction/developmental services recommended only in certain situations, such as when a child has mild or global delays?
Do you think special instructors are well-qualified professionals? If yes, what are the requirements in your locality or state? If not, what would you like to see happen to raise the bar? The position statement (PDF, New Window) takes a strong stance on minimum education and qualification recommendations. Check them out and let me know what you think.
Share your insights in the comments below. Let’s get this conversation started!