ERIC Identifier: ED434436
Publication Date: 1999-09-00
Author: Hanson, Marci J.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Disabilities and Gifted Education Reston VA.
Early Transitions for Children and Families: Transitions from
Infant/Toddler Services to Preschool Education. ERIC Digest E581.
Transitions for young children can occur at a number of points: as the child
moves from the hospital to the family's home, from care in the home to
infant/toddler early intervention services, from infant/toddler services to
preschool education, and from preschool to kindergarten and elementary school.
For purposes of this discussion, transitions are identified as "points of change
in services and personnel who coordinate and provide services" (Rice &
O'Brien, 1990, p. 2).
While all children experience transitions in their early years, children with
developmental challenges and their families may experience more frequent and
more intense transitions in necessary services. These transitions may be
stressful for families. Family concerns during this process are heightened by
changes in friendship ties and service delivery systems as the child moves from
more home-based and family-focused services to more center-based and
child-focused services (Hains, Rosenkoetter, & Fowler, 1991).
This digest focuses on a crucial early transition for children with
disabilities: the transition from infant/toddler services (during which the
child and family may or may not have participated in early intervention
services) to preschool education. The Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act (IDEA) provides regulation and funding to states for infant/toddler services
to children with disabilities from birth through age 2 under Part C and from age
3 through 21 under Part B, so this transition may represent a different funding
and regulation authority as well as a move to a different agency or service
The ideal transition process is one which is a "carefully planned,
outcome-oriented process, initiated by the primary service provider, who
establishes and implements a written, multi-agency service plan for each child
moving to a new program (McNulty 1989, p.159). Unfortunately, the transition
experiences of many families do not meet this ideal.
Transitions are crucial times for
decision making about children's services. Wolery (1989) suggests that the
transition process should ensure service continuity, reduce family disruptions,
prepare children for their program placements, and meet legal requirements.
Collaboration between professionals and families and the roles of the child's
family, the sending and receiving teachers, other personnel, and service
agencies are crucial to a successful transition process.
Successful transitions promote "(a) placement decisions that meet individual
needs, (b) uninterrupted services, (c) non-confrontational and effective models
of advocacy that families can emulate throughout their children's lives (d)
avoidance of duplication in assessment and goal planning, and (e) reduced stress
for children, families, and service providers" (Shotts, Rosenkoetter, Streufert,
& Rosenkoetter, 1994, p. 395-396).
TRANSITION ISSUES: WHAT INFLUENCES THE PROCESS?
substantial body of literature addresses transition processes, although few
studies have examined the transition for children from infant/toddler services
to preschool education. However, issues have been identified that highlight
particular considerations for this transition.
These issues include the shift from one service system or agency to another,
differences in eligibility requirements for services, new demands for child
participation, differing expectations for child behavior and "readiness," new
types and levels of staff involvement and training, and philosophical shifts in
intervention models (Fowler, Hains, & Rosenkoetter, 1990; Hains et al.,
1988; Shotts et al., 1994).
STRATEGIES: WHAT ARE ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS FOR
Research findings underscore the importance of collaboration as
influential and essential in the transition process. Collaboration between
professionals, and between families and professionals, may take many forms and
may occur at different levels (Rosenkoetter, Hains, & Fowler, 1994).
Strategies must be adapted to address different types of services and systems
and meet the needs of the range of children and families served in terms of
cultural, linguistic, ethnic, racial, and socio-economic backgrounds. A
description of effective strategies identified in the literature follows.
*Interagency issues and policies. Since children often receive services from
different agencies during transition, interagency coordination and cross agency
linkages are crucial. These linkages establish lines of responsibility and
coordinate all facets of the process including child-find, referral and
assessment, eligibility requirements, Individualized Family Service Plan
(IFSP)/Individualized Education Program (IEP) processes, and follow-up and
evaluation services (Fowler et al., 1990; Rosenkoetter et al., 1994; Rous,
Hemmeter, & Schuster, 1994; Shotts et al.,1994). The IFSP must include steps
to support the child's transition at age 3. These steps focus on discussions
related to future placements, information exchange, and transition procedures.
An interagency committee to review and develop policies and procedures can
benefit planning (Rous et al., 1994).
*Preparation, information exchange, and training between ending programs,
receiving programs, and families. Prior to the decision making and meetings
about future placement, all participants (family members and professionals) must
have information about the child, family concerns and priorities (Hains et al.,
1991; Shotts et al., 1994). The development of a transition plan and an
established means of communication between families, sending professionals, and
professionals in the receiving program facilitates the transition process (Hains
et al., 1991; Rosenkoetter et al., 1994).
*Family support. Information should be provided to families in formats that
match the needs of the family (written vs. oral, group vs. individual, video),
include opportunities for program visitation, and include options for
supplemental services (Rous et al., 1994).
*Child preparation. Several efforts have focused on assessing and teaching
the skills needed by the child in the next environment (Byrd & Rous, 1991;
Rous et al., 1994). These skills focus primarily on social-behavioral goals and
functional skills for participating in the daily routine of the receiving
preschool program. They include learning classroom rules, self-management
related to activities such as eating and taking care of one's needs, and
communicating one's own needs as well as communicating effectively with adults
and peers in the program.
*Staff training and collaboration. The training of personnel providing
infant/toddler services may differ from those providing preschool services,
which necessitates coordination and preparation (Fowler et al., 1990).
Transition team training for parents and professionals helps to ensure more
successful transitions (Rous et al., 1994).
FINDINGS OF THE EARLY CHILDHOOD RESEARCH INSTITUTE ON INCLUSION (ECRII)
Recent descriptive research from the Early Childhood
Research Institute on Inclusion (ECRII), a five-year multi- university federally
funded research project, examined the transition process as children moved from
Part C services to Part B services (Hanson, 1998; Hanson, Horn, & Brennan,
1997). The study focused on family choices and decision making and the service
delivery opportunities for inclusive placements. Families and professionals
(sending and receiving teachers, therapists and other related service personnel,
service coordinators) were interviewed and observed during the transition
Findings centered on families' and professionals' experiences and perceptions
during the transition process, their expectations and concerns, and factors that
affected or influenced the transition process and outcome. From the families'
perspectives, the shift in service delivery systems (and often agencies)
contributed to a challenging process in which they were shifted to new rules,
regulations, types of services, and often agencies. Most families expressed
expectations and concerns that their children receive quality learning/academic
experiences, services for their children's special needs, and opportunities for
independence building and social participation in settings with children without
Byrd, M. R., & Rous, B. S. (1991). Helpful
entry level skills checklist--Revised. Lexington, KY: Child Development Centers
of the Bluegrass.
Fowler, S. A., Hains, A. H., & Rosenkoetter, S. E. (1990). The transition
between early intervention services and preschool services: Administrative and
policy issues. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 9(4), 55-65.
Hains, A. H., Rosenkoetter, S. E., & Fowler, S.A. (1991). Transition
planning with families in early intervention programs. Infants and Young
Children, 3(4), 38-47.
Hanson, M. J. (1998). Transition from Part C to Part B services. Invited
presentation to the Summit on Inclusion (NEC*TAS), Washington, DC, July 30-31,
Hanson, M. J., Horn, E., & Brennan, E. (1997). Family perspectives on
transitions in preschool programs: Findings of the Early Childhood Research
Institute on Inclusion. Presentation to the Council for Exceptional Children's
Division for Early Childhood, Annual International Early Childhood Conference on
Children with Special Needs, New Orleans, November 1997.
McNulty, B. A. (1989). Leadership and policy strategies for interagency
planning: Meeting the early childhood mandate. In J.J. Gallagher, P.L. Trohanis,
& R.M. Clifford (Eds.), Policy implementation and P.L. 99-457: Planning for
young children with special needs (pp. 147-167). Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes
Rice, M.L., & O'Brien, M. (1990). Transitions: Times of change and
accommodation, Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 9 (4), 1-14.
Rosenkoetter, S. E., Hains, A. H., & Fowler, S. A. (1994). Bridging early
services for children with special needs and their families. Baltimore: Paul H.
Brookes Publishing Co.
Rous, B., Hemmeter, M. L., & Schuster, J. (1994). Sequenced transition to
education in the public schools: A systems approach to transition planning.
Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 14(3), 374-393.
Shotts, C. K., Rosenkoetter, S. E., Streufert, C. A., & Rosenkoetter, L.
I. (1994). Transition policy and issues: A view from the states. Topics in Early
Childhood Special Education, 14(3), 395-411.
Wolery, M. (1989). Transitions in early childhood special education: Issues
and procedures. Focus on Exceptional Children, 22(2), 1-16.