Early intervention evaluation: Current issues and concerns for researchers and parents

Year: 1994

Author: Konza, Deslea

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Early intervention, or early childhood special education, is one of the most recently developed specialised areas of education, coming into widespread existence only in the last 25 years (Kirk & Gallagher, 1983; Wolery, 1993). As economic difficulties continue to place restraints on government funding for education, greater pressure is exerted for accountability in all educational provisions, and demonstrations of program efficacy are rightly demanded by administrators who have increasing calls on limited financial resources. Service providers are also concerned that the type of program they offer is the best available, therefore evaluations of different program types and service deliveries should provide them with the necessary directions. Parents, too, have the right to know which particular programs will best suit their children (Jephson, 1992).

The purpose of this paper is firstly to provide an overview of the evaluation problems which have surrounded early intervention research and outline some of the attempts being made to address them. This is divided into four broad sections: (1) threats to internal validity; (2) the absence of appropriate statistical analyses; (3) the use of limited outcome measures; and (4) the lack of a conceptual base to intervention programs.

The paper also reports briefly on parents' views of five early intervention programs currently operating in the southern region of New South Wales.