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Misconceptions about early child care, education and intervention

Patricia Canning and Mary Lyon

Obviously not all intervention is the same. Exactly what and how it is done (and sometimes there is absolutely no choice), will determine the short and long term effects. The dynamic nature of cause and effect and the unintentional side effects of actions in all of these areas is more and more recognized. A general conclusion, which applies to all the areas mentioned, might be this:

intervention is most beneficial if it supports the naturally occurring course of development, and undermines as little as possible the independence of the persons or organisms who are the objects of the intervention.

Everything we know about child development and the processes by which it comes about, and can be nurtured, would lead us to believe that this is particularly true in the case of intervention aimed at young handicapped children. Development is not something that can be "done to" children, whether or not they are handicapped, but is something they themselves "do" as a consequence of dynamic actions on, and responses from, their physical and social environments.

The complexity and sensitivity of the transactional nature of this process would indicate that it is especially vulnerable to intervention of any kind, to the negative effects as well as any positive ones. This is something that is not universally considered in what is done in programs for young normal children and seems to be even less so in programs for the handicapped. Unfortunately, because the premises on which intervention programs are based are rarely examined, few programs have attempted to assess their effects in a manner which would yield data on the possible harmful effects (Anglin & Glossop, 1987). Two recent studies of parent education and support groups suggest that such programs may, by interfering with normal family functioning, encourage some of the behaviours they are seeking to reduce or eliminate (Kagey, Vivace, and Lutz, 1981; Sham, Suurvali & Kilt, 1980).

Anglin, J., & Glossop, R. (1987). Parent education and support: An emerging field for child care work. In C. Denholm, R. Ferguson & A. Pence (Eds.), Professional Child and Youth Care (pp. 175-196). Vancouver, BC: University of British Columbia Press.

Kagey, J.R., Vivace, J. & Lutz, W. (1981). Mental health primary prevention: The role of parent mutual support groups. Journal of Public Health, 71 (2), 166-167.

Sham, M., Suurvali, H., & Kilt, H.L. (1980). Final report on the parent communication project. Toronto: Addiction Research Foundation.

Canning, P.M. and Lyon, M.E. (1991) Misconceptions about early child care, education and intervention.
Journal of Child and Youth Care, Vol.5 No.2, pp. 1-10

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