The University of Connecticut (CT UCEDD/LEND) in Collaboration with Western Kentucky University Completes Six-Year Analysis of Best Practices in Training for Early Childhood Special Education

June 29, 2009

The University of Connecticut A. J. Pappanikou Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UConn UCEDD) in collaboration with Western Kentucky University (WKU) has completed a six year project to analyze the quality of training, certification and licensure for personnel working with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers who have special needs. The study revealed a crisis in personnel working with children with disabilities ages birth to five (B-5). While most states reported a variety of supports for obtaining qualified personnel, there is a current shortage of personnel and there are still many barriers including: a small pool of potential employees, low salaries, and a lack of support for early intervention (EI) and early childhood special education (ECSE) certification standards. Although faculty indicated that their preservice curricula moderately align with national standards, few states' licensure or certification standards align with national standards. Most states have neither a training system nor a system of technical assistance for early intervention or special education preschool programs. Most service providers reported that they lack the confidence and competence in early intervention or special education preschool services.

The Center to Inform Personnel Preparation Policy and Practice in Early Intervention (EI) and Preschool Education was a six year project established in January 2003 and funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP).

The Center compiled a comprehensive database of current licensure and certification standards for all EI/ECSE personnel, which is available on the web here.

The study also produced a projection of supply and demand for personnel, which indicated shortages across disciplines, specifically:  speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and special educators for both Part C (children ages B-3) and 619 (children ages 3-5). There is a need for additional training in EI across these disciplines, yet there is no Comprehensive System of Professional Development (CSPD) to address pre-service or in-service for about half of all states.

A national survey indicated that higher education programs for preparation of EI/ECSE service providers offer few courses specific to assistive technology, inclusion and natural environments, research and evaluation or families. A little over half of the programs offer cross-disciplinary collaboration and approximately 30% of them have family members involved with their programs. Only one third of the programs require field placements with children B-5 years with special needs.

For Part C, only 20 states had a training system and only 12 states had a technical assistance system; and for 619, only 23 states (58%) had a training system and 20 states (42%) had a technical assistance system.

Detailed reports from the project are available on line here .

The UConn UCEDD offers an on-line course to train personnel to provide early intervention services. The Early Intervention Specialists Program utilizes web-based instruction to deliver content around three comprehensive modules: 1) Family-centered care, 2) Cross-disciplinary interventions in natural environments and 3) Interagency collaboration. The content of the coursework and practica correspond to competencies that must be demonstrated in order to receive a certificate and, in some states, to be credentialed. More information is available here.


The UConn UCEDD is funded by the Administration on Developmental Disabilities (ADD) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The ADD is the U.S. Government organization responsible for implementation of the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000, known as the DD Act. The ADD ensures that individuals with developmental disabilities and their families participate in the design of, and have access to, culturally competent services, supports, and other assistance and opportunities that promote independence, productivity, and integration and inclusion into the community.