Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Children with disabilities might experience multiple transitions during their early years. One important transition that occurs for many children with disabilities or developmental delays and their families is the transition from Early Intervention (EI) to Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) services at three years of age. The stress of this transition may be exacerbated for families of young children with disabilities as the shifts between services involve many choices and decisions depending on the child’s level of need. Effective transition procedures for children with disabilities sets the stage for future positive or negative transition experiences and optimal learning experiences in the school setting. The study of transition is multifaceted and researchers, as well as professionals, attempt to understand the complexities of the transition experiences of young children with disabilities and their families. There is a common assertion in the literature that providers assist in the transition by providing environmental supports and involving families in transitions, yet provider perspectives and specifics of how they are involved in transition is mostly absent in studies about transition. Some researchers suggest that little is known about how relationships between families and service providers, which often begin during the transition between systems, are established. The purpose of this study is to investigate the common practices that EI professionals engage in during the EI-to-ECSE transition, and the perceptions of EI professionals during the EI-to-ECSE transition focusing on determining which actions, policies, and procedures contribute to make the experience a positive one for all of those involved. The research questions are answered through two focus groups and two interviews with Early Intervention providers in the Southern part of Illinois. The major themes that emerged are related to professionalism, working within the EI system, and supporting families. EI providers discussed their roles, staff shortages, schedules and funding, parent education, and collaboration. Implications and future research are discussed.
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