NAEYC's At-Risk and Special Needs Interest Forum
The At-Risk and Special Needs Interest Forum promotes a positive approach to working with and supporting families of young children who are at-risk or who have special needs. Through communicating and networking, the Interest Forum offers providers resources, support, information, and answers as they encounter children’s challenges. Topics covered include Response to Intervention in early childhood, autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, challenging behaviors, early intervention, sensory processing, inclusion, environments, adaptations and modifications, evaluation and identification, and transitions.
The At-Risk and Special Needs Interest Forum began when NAEYC members recognized that other members needed more support from the Association on these topics. The group officially joined the NAEYC Interest Forums in 2004 and has been helping educators since. When the group began, children with learning challenges or special needs, who are at-risk, or who have individual education plans were not considered the responsibility of all teachers and providers. Today, however, most settings include children who are at-risk or have special needs.
To support early childhood educators, the forum offers resources and guidance in person, online, and through print materials. The forum also hosts informal meeting opportunities, engages NAEYC members in discussion in the Interest Forum online community, publishes a monthly e-newsletter with up-to-date resources and information, and presents sessions at NAEYC conferences. The At-Risk and Special Needs Interest Forum was involved with writing the 2009 joint position statement of the Division for Early Childhood and NAEYC on early childhood inclusion.
The Interest Forum online community is fohimr NAEYC members only, and it provides educators the opportunity to ask questions of a large group of people with similar interests. Discussion topics include finding more information about working with children with special needs and recommendations for helping children with special needs transition from preschool to kindergarten. Online communities can provide immediate responses from a variety of people, which helps build a network of professionals and encourages sharing of tools, resources, and common experiences.
At NAEYC’s Annual Conference & Expo, the Interest Forum sponsors a table in the Interest Forum Café lounge called Stop By & Ask. Its purpose is to give all conference attendees a chance to ask questions, learn new answers, and find resources related to children who are at-risk or have special needs. Forum members are available to discuss detailed questions and provide specific feedback. They also provide an extensive resource list to help educators explore the topic and learn more. Interest Forum members also encourage attendees to connect with the forum and discuss how the group can support members’ local Affiliates.
At-Risk and Special Needs Interest Forum members will be presenting the following sessions at the 2013 Annual Conference & Expo in Washington, DC:
Wednesday, November 20, 8:30–11:30 am
Adapting Your Program for Children With Special Needs: Strategies and Resources for Successful Inclusion
Mary N. Wonderlick, Chris Bentley, and Dea Anderson
This session will feature a dialogue about educators’ roles in ensuring successful inclusion, give attendees the opportunity to explore inclusion plans, and provide resources, strategies, and techniques that support all children.
Thursday, November 21, 1–2:30 pm
Sharing Developmental Concerns With Families: Relationship, Regulation, and Referral
Cindy Croft and Priscilla Weigel
Under the new Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, Part C, regulations, child care providers are mandated to refer children who are suspected of having a developmental delay or concern. In this session, we will discuss effective strategies for sharing developmental concerns with families and how to facilitate the discussion that might include a referral for a child.
Friday, November 22, 8–9:30 am
Understanding Autism and Basic Strategies for Inclusion
Chris Bentley and Dea Anderson
This workshop provides an overview of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) to gain a better understanding of the characteristics of ASD, the diagnostic process, related terminology, and a brief overview of fundamental strategies and supports. Participants will also discuss how to implement strategies that benefit all children, not just those with autism.
The At-Risk and Special Needs Interest Forum relies on questions and ideas from forum members and other educators as it considers future projects. The forum encourages NAEYC members to connect by joining the conversation in the Interest Forum online community, subscribing to the newsletter, attending a conference session, or visiting the Stop By & Ask table at the Interest Forum Café lounge at NAEYC’s 2013 Annual Conference & Expo, November 20–23, in Washington, DC.
Mary N. Wonderlick, MA, is a professional development provider and co-facilitator of the NAEYC At-Risk and Special Needs Interest Forum. Her experiences cover self-contained and inclusion settings, and she provides professional development on a variety of topics. She contributed to the joint position statement on inclusion from the Division for Early Childhood and NAEYC. She is the author of Finding an Appropriate Preschool for Your Child With Special Needs. firstname.lastname@example.org
Cindy Croft, MA, is director of the Center for Inclusive Child Care at Concordia University-Saint Paul and a College of Education faculty member. email@example.com