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IES Grant

Title: Building Foundations for Self-Determination in Young Children with Disabilities: Developing a Curriculum for Families
Center: NCSER Year: 2009
Principal Investigator: Summers, Jean Ann Awardee: University of Kansas
Program: Early Intervention and Early Learning in Special Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 7/1/2009 through 6/30/2012 Award Amount: $918,533
Goal: Development and Innovation Award Number: R324A090267

Purpose: Self-determination is defined as a set of abilities and skills that allow one to define personal and interpersonal goals in life and to take initiative in reaching those goals. A self-determined young person has the ability to identify goals, problem-solve effectively, and appropriately express and advocate for him or herself. Self-determination has been associated with positive academic and post-transition outcomes in adolescents and young adults with disabilities. In the current early childhood special education literature, there are interventions targeted at specific foundation skills for developing future self-determination, such as engagement, self-control, or executive function. However, there is no evidence-based intervention that provides a coordinated and comprehensive approach to encouraging the development of appropriate precursors of self-determination in young children with disabilities. The purpose of this study is to develop tools to enable families and practitioners to encourage the development of skills for self-determination in children ages 3–5 with disabilities.

Project Activities: The Phase I design work will include an expanded literature review, family and practitioner surveys, and in-depth interviews with a sample of survey respondents. This input will be used to create a draft intervention, related materials, and observational measures. The Phase II development work will begin with a case study of the draft intervention with one family-practitioner dyad in each of the three participating states. Developers will then revise the intervention and repeat this process twice more. The Phase III pilot will involve testing the intervention with family-practitioner dyads in three additional sites in each state.

Products: Study products will include a fully-developed Foundations intervention, an assessment of the feasibility and usability of the intervention, an effective fidelity measure to assess implementation, and evidence on the effects of the intervention on child outcomes identified as precursors of self-determination (i.e., choice making, engagement and self-regulation).

Structured Abstract

Setting: The Foundations Project will be conducted in Kansas, Iowa, and New Jersey.

Population: The population in Phase I (Design) will include approximately 200 family members and 150 preschool practitioners across the three states, who will participate in surveys to identify attitudes, preferences, and strategies about self-determination. In Phase II (Development), the population will include a total of 9 dyads (3 in each state), or 18 total family and practitioner partners. In Phase III 3 (Pilot), 48 dyads or 96 total family and practitioner partners, will participate in a pilot test of the intervention. Phases II and III will involve children with disabilities ages 3 to 5. Recruitment will target diversity in race/ethnicity, SES, and, for practitioners, training and experience.

Intervention: The basic premise of the Foundations intervention is to embed strategies and environmental accommodations to enhance choice-making, engagement, and self-regulation into relevant home, community, and classroom routines. The steps in the intervention will include: (a) Overview and training of families and practitioners; (b) Identification of the child’s needs; (c) Review of the home/classroom environment; (d) Implementation of the Foundations Intervention; (e) Review of the results and replication in another set of routines; and (f) Re-assessment of goals with establishment of new goals as needed.

Research Design and Methods: The Foundations intervention will be designed, refined iteratively through a series of case studies, and pilot tested. The project will use a Participatory Action Research (PAR) approach to assure continuous feedback and enhance the ultimate utility and feasibility of the intervention. Eight members in each state will be recruited to form a PAR group, which will hold videoconferences in each phase of the project to inform development and revision of the intervention.

Development will involve an embedded case studies design. One family-practitioner dyad in each state will constitute Dyad Group I, and will implement the intervention for two months. Feedback will be gathered, results of the implementation trials will be analyzed, and revisions will be completed in the following month. This procedure will be repeated over the next two months with Dyad Group II, followed by a second month-long period for analysis and revision. Finally, the process will be repeated with Dyad Group III. Measures from Dyad Groups I and II will continue to be collected throughout the process.

The pilot test of the revised intervention will involve a purposive sample of 48 dyads that represent diverse groups among preschool programs (rural, urban, suburban, home-based, inclusive where possible), practitioners (ECSE teachers, therapists, and home visiting special educators), and families (different ethnic and socioeconomic groups).

Control Condition: There is no control condition.

Key Measures: Study measures include two semi-structured, open-ended family and practitioner surveys to gather input for the intervention development; implementation fidelity measure checklists and rating scales; and outcome measures focused on child choice-making, engagement, self-regulation, and learning capacity.

Data Analytic Strategy: The open-ended surveys in the design phase will be analyzed using content analysis procedures to sort responses by emergent themes. Researchers will use t-tests in the analysis of the pilot results to assess whether the Foundations intervention is associated with changes in the behavior of the family/practitioner behavior and the home/school environment. T-tests will also be used to assess whether or not changes in child outcomes measuring self-determination skills are associated with participation in the Foundations intervention.


Book chapter

Palmer, S., Wehmeyer, M., & Shogren, K. (in press). The development of self-determination. In M. L. Wehmeyer, K. A. Shogren, T. Little, & S. Lopez (Eds.),Handbook on the development of self-determination. New York: Springer.

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Erwin, E.J., Maude, S.P., Palmer, S.B., Summers, J.A., Brotherson, M.J., Haines, S.J., Stroup-Rentier, V., Zheng, Y., and Peck, N.F. (2015). Fostering the Foundations of Self-Determination in Early Childhood: A Process for Enhancing Child Outcomes Across Home and School. Early Childhood Education Journal, 44(4): 325–333. doi:10.1007/s10643–015–0710–9

Haines, S.J., Summers, J.A., Turnbull, A.P., and Turnbull, H.R. (2015). Family Partnership With a Head Start Agency: A Case Study of a Refugee Family. NHSA Dialogue, 17(4): 22–49.

Haines, S.J., Summers, J.A., Turnbull, A.P., and Turnbull, H.R. (2015). Family Partnership: Practical Implications From a Case Study of a Refugee Family. NHSA Dialogue, 17(4): 124–130.

Haines, S.J., Summers, J.A., Turnbull, A.P., Turnbull, H.R., and Palmer, S.B. (2014). Fostering Habib's Engagement and Self-Regulation: A Case Study of a Child From a Refugee Family at Home and Preschool. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 35(1): 28–39. doi:10.1177/0271121414552905

Maude, S.P., Brotherson, M.J., Summers, J.A., Erwin, E.J., Palmer, S.B., Peck, N.F., Zheng, Y., Kruse, A., Haines, S.J., and Weigel, C. (2011). Performance: A Strategy for Professional Development in Early Childhood Teacher Preparation. Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 32(4): 355–366. doi:10.1080/10901027.2011.622244

Palmer, S., Summers, J.A., Brotherson, M.J. Erwin, E., Maude, S., Stroup-Rentier, V., and Haines, S. (2013). Foundations for Self-Determination in Early Childhood: An Inclusive Model for Children With Disabilities. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 33(1): 38–47. doi:10.1177/0271121412445288

Stroup-Rentier, V.L., Summers, J.A., Palmer, S B., and Turnbull, A.P. (2015). Family-Professional Partnerships in Head Start: Practical Strategies Using a Partnership Intervention. NHSA Dialogue, 17(4): 131–137.

Stroup-Rentier, V.L., Summers, J.A., Palmer, S.B., and Turnbull, A.P. (2015). An Exploration of how the Foundations Intervention Influences Family-Professional Partnerships in Head Start: A Case Study. NHSA Dialogue, 17(4): 50–65.

Summers, J.A., Brotherson, M.J., Erwin, E.J., Maude, S., Palmer, S.B., Haines, S.J., Stroup-Rentier, V., Wu, H.Y., Peck, N.F., and Zheng, Y.Z. (2014). Family Reflections on the Foundations of Self-Determination in Early Childhood. Inclusion, 2(3): 175–194. doi:10.1352/2326–6988–2.03.175

Zheng, Y.Z., Maude, S.P., Brotherson, M.J., Summers, J.A., Palmer, S.B., and Erwin, E.J. (2015). Foundations for Self-Determination Perceived and Promoted by Families of Young Children With Disabilities in China. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disability, 50(1): 109–112.