Infants: Family and Early Intervention Services

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International Journal of D isability, D evelopm ent and Education V ol. 49, N o. 4, 2002

Measuring the Quality of Early Intervention Services for Infants and Toddlers: problems and prospects SUSAN KONTOS* & KAREN DIAMOND
Department of Child Development and Family Studies, 1269 Fowler House, Purdue University, W. Lafayette, IN 47907–1269, USA

Comparable scales to measure quality of early intervention services for infants and toddlers as perceived by parents and service providers were developed based on the Recommended Practices in Early Intervention. Each scale consisted of four subscales focusing on: home-based therapies/instruction, centre-based therapies/instruction, medical/ health services, and service coordination. The scales were administered to 209 parents and 177 of their service providers. A sample of 24 parents completed the instrument twice during a two-week interval to assess test–retest reliability of the parent scale. Test–retest reliability for the parent scale was .785. Validity of the scale was assessed by examining the correlation of parent and provider perceptions of quality with family demographic and early intervention service characteristics. Parents’ perceptions of quality were related to family centredness of services. Neither parents’ nor providers’ perceptions of quality were related to family socioeconomic status. Problems and prospects for measuring quality of early intervention services are discussed. ABSTRACT

Purpose of the Study There is consistent evidence that the effects of early childhood programs on children’s development are moderated by the quality of the program. In other words, children’s development is enhanced when they attend high quality programs and hindered by low quality programs (Helburn, 1995; Kontos, Howes, Galinsky, & Shinn, 1994; Whitebook, Howes, & Phillips, 1989). The samples on which these ndings are based, however, are exclusively typically developing children in regular early childhood programs and the instruments used to assess program quality (in the studies cited above: Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale/ECERS, Harms & Clifford, 1998; Family Day Care Rating Scale/FDCRS, Harms & Clifford, 1990; Infant/Toddler Rating Environment Rating Scale/ITERS, Harms, Cryer, & Clifford, 1990) are designed to assess “generic” aspects of early childhood programs (e.g., * kontos@cfs.purdue.edu

ISSN 1034-912X (print)/ISSN 1465-346X (online)/02/040337-15 Ó DOI: 10.1080/1034912022000028321 2002 Taylor & Francis Ltd

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furnishings and room arrangement, materials and activities to promote language development), but not the specialised services typical of early intervention for infants and toddlers (e.g., therapies, service coordination, medical services). Thus, although there is a tendency to assume that the effects of early intervention services are also related to the quality of those services (Aytch, Cryer, Bailey, & Salz, 1999; Bailey, Clifford, & Harms, 1982; Bailey, McWilliam, Buysse, & Wesley, 1998; LaParo, Sexton, & Snyder, 1998), this assumption has not been tested directly. One reason for the lack of data is the paucity of instruments designed to assess early intervention quality. In other words, we cannot determine the impact of a factor for which there is no known reliable and valid measure. As states in the US offer and, in turn, evaluate the impact of mandated early intervention services to infants and toddlers with (or at risk for) disabilities and their families, the need is growing for instruments that can address issues of quality in light of the specialised nature of these services (Aytch et al., 1999). To the extent that early intervention services are provided to some infants and toddlers in inclusive, centre-based settings, measures of early intervention quality may supplement quality instruments such as the ECERS, FDCRS, or the ITERS (Harms et al., 1990). In other instances where early intervention services are...
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