Closing the education gap starts early
The Iowa Department of Education has kicked off a program designed to better deliver early intervention to infants and toddlers throughout the state.
The program, called Distance Mentoring Model, or DMM, enhances the training of service providers who work with infants and toddlers through age 3 who have been identified as having developmental delays or disabilities.
The goal of early intervention – or developing a systematic approach to ensure each child can overcome a learning deficiency – is to ensure that by the time a child reaches kindergarten, he or she will be ready to succeed. That is done through coaching families on to how to effectively support their children’s development throughout the day.
“Research shows that an education gap begins at 18 months, and it grows every year without effective interventions,” said Department Consultant Melissa Schnurr.
Schnurr, along with Consultant Cindy Weigel, are heading the Department’s five-year initiative.
“It’s a relatively new program and has been used in other states successfully,” Schnurr said. “They have seen improvement among the children.”
DMM is collaborating with Early ACCESS, Iowa’s system of early intervention. Service providers from a variety of disciplines – such as early childhood special educators, speech language pathologists, physical therapists – participate in a variety of systematic professional development activities, including interactive workshops, and expert and peer mentoring with performance-based feedback.
“DMM is based on research that uses professional development strategies to support using evidence-based intervention practices,” Weigel said.
Iowa’s current early intervention professional development is fragmented, with inconsistent delivery throughout the state. DMM is a step toward consistent, high-quality service delivery for all eligible infants, toddlers and their families in Iowa.
Though there are plenty of professional development programs aimed at early intervention, a critical component of DMM is using video to record interactions between providers and the families they serve.
“Seeing yourself on tape is a very powerful way to change your behavior,” Weigel said. “The review is a guided process in which the experts help you see what you need to do to improve how you work with families.”
Schnurr said the first training begins in September, with a second group starting six months later.
“We will have a new group every six months over the next five years,” she said. “In the end, the goal is to have DMM implemented statewide and have built-in sustainability.”
Schnurr said those attending represent Early ACCESS service providers from a variety of disciplines across the state.