A Theory to Practice Model: Clinical University School Lab Partnerships to Prepare Early Intervention Specialists

By Rebecca Panagos, Kelly Hantak and Maria Lindsay.

Published by The International Journal of Early Childhood Learning

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The increasing prevalence of children born prematurely with low birth weights and co-occurrence of one or more developmental disabilities propels the need for the development of highly specialized personnel preparation programs in the field of early interventions. This paper reports a practice focus on one university’s response to meet the need for teacher training and development through a collaborative partnership with an inclusive early childhood agency. The partnership allows a hands-on experience for graduate students who are interested in focusing on the areas of children with autism and sensory impairments (visual and hearing impairments). Following a review of current practices in higher education institutions for early intervention personnel preparation in the United States, the paper highlights a brief history of early education initiatives, the response of national and state funded programs to provide family-centered practices, and the incorporation of clinical experiences demonstrating evidence-based practices in natural settings. Offering a case study of perspectives on teacher training and development, this paper is co-authored by a university professor, clinical supervising child development therapist, and graduate early intervention candidate.

Keywords: Early Interventions, Autism, Sensory Impairments, Field Experience, Preservice, Professional Development Schools, Teacher Preparation

The International Journal of Early Childhood Learning, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp.29-38. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 226.816KB).

Dr. Rebecca Panagos

Professor, School of Education, Lindenwood University, St. Charles, USA

Dr. Panagos first began teaching children with autism in the late 1970s before much was known about autism. Most of the children at that time were taught in self-contained schools for special education in the district in which she was employed. She recognized the numerous and unique gifts that these children showed and refocused her career from classroom teaching to the field of vocational counseling and research in secondary transitions. Prior to working at the university level, she served as professional development chairperson for a major school district that employed 2500 special education teachers and therapists. Discovering an interest in teacher preparation, she completed her Ph.D. in special education, shifting her interest to improve teacher training in the field of special education. Her program development experience at the university level includes introducing the concept of professional development schools to her university, designing a theory application model for teaching undergraduate methods classes taught in elementary schools, and the establishment of clinical teaching partnerships with an early childhood center.

Kelly Hantak

Early Intervention Coordinator, United Services for Children, USA

Mrs. Hantak has been involved in the fields of early childhood education and special education for over twenty years. She has collaborated primarily with transdisciplinary and early intervention teams, as well as local lead educational agencies. As an early interventionist, she has worked with children of various abilities, including but not limited to autism, hearing impairments, phonological-disordered, prematurity, and visual impairments. Currently, she maintains positive relationships between early intervention providers, service coordinators, and families who have a child with developmental delays. She also works closely with graduate students interested in observing direct therapy services in an infant/toddler’s natural environment. She is an adjunct faculty member at St. Charles Community College. She is also actively involved in local, state, and national programs focusing on early childhood education including the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Council for Professional Recognition. At this time, she is the president of the Midwest Association for the Education of Young Children.

Maria Lindsay

Master of Arts degree Candidate in Early Interventions in Autism and Sensory Impairments program, School of Education, Lindenwood University, USA

Maria began studying education at Lindenwood University in 2003. During her second placement as a student teacher, she quickly found her niche working with 3–5 year olds with autism in an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) classroom. Once she graduated from Lindenwood University in 2007, she received her first job as a Teacher’s Assistant specifically to shadow one student with special needs. During the following semester, she became the lead teacher in an inclusive classroom for preschool-aged students with special needs for a special school district. She has been doing this for 3.5 years. She is currently a member of the Council for Exceptional Children and continues to work on her Master’s Degree in Education with an emphasis on Early Interventions and Sensory Processes. She spends a lot of her time reading the latest information on the best practices in the classroom and is always eager to learn from her colleagues and coworkers. She was nominated two different years for the Key to Classroom Award; an award given to teacher-level staff who demonstrate excellent skills in the areas of teaching, leadership and accountability.