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By Crystal Williams, Ed.M.

The Division for Early Childhood of the Council of Exceptional Children, the leading professional organization in EI/ECSE, spearheaded efforts to develop EI/ECSE standards.  It is important for all early childhood professionals to become familiar with these standards to provide the support needed for individual children with disabilities and their families. In this blog series, we discuss each standard, prompt questions for reflection, and provide tips and resources that professionals can use to ensure their practices align with the EI/ECSE standards.

 Standard 6: Using Responsive and Reciprocal Interactions, Interventions, and Instruction

Components Reflective Questions
6.1 Identify and use systematic, responsive, and intentional evidence-based practices to support children’s learning and development
  • Where do you find information about evidence-based practices (EBPs)? What makes something an EBP?
  • Why is it important to use EBPs with fidelity?
  • How can you share information about EBPs with caregivers?
6.2 Engage in partnerships with families and professionals to facilitate responsive adult-child interactions, interventions, and instruction
  • What strategies do you use to build positive partnerships with families and other professionals?
  • What opportunities do you have to support the interactions, interventions, and instruction of other adults with children?
6.3 Engage in ongoing planning and adapt the environment, materials, and interventions as needed to meet the needs of all children and families
  • Why is it important to engage in ongoing planning?
  • How do children’s physical, social, and temporal environments impact their learning?
  • What are some examples of adaptations you have made to support children’s and families’ needs?
6.4 Promote children’s social and emotional competence and plan interventions to prevent and respond to unwanted behaviors
  • How do children’s social, emotional and communication skills impact their behavior?
  • What strategies do you use to prevent unwanted behaviors? What strategies do you use to promote skill development and to respond to unwanted behavior?
6.5 Provide multiple opportunities for children to develop play skills and engage in meaningful play experiences independently and with others
  • What play skills do you tend to focus on in your work? What play skills could you focus on more?
  • How could you explain the importance of play to caregivers and other adults?
  • How can play be used to practice skills across developmental domains (i.e., practicing counting while building with blocks)?
6.6 Use responsive interactions, interventions, and instruction across activities, routines, and environments to promote learning and development
  • How do you know if your interactions, interventions, and instruction are responsive, and how do you make sure that they promote learning and development? What child and family characteristics do you consider?
  • What are ways you can promote responsive teaching and interactions with other adults and in settings where you are not present?
6.7 Plan, adapt, and improve approaches to interactions, interventions, and instruction based on multiple sources of data across a range of natural and inclusive environments
  • How often do you reflect on children’s progress?
  • What tools do you use for progress monitoring?
  • What steps of the data-driven decision cycle do you do well (plan, implement, assess, and revise)? How can you improve this process in your practice?

Resources to enhance your knowledge related to Standard 6:

Tips for improving your practice related to Standard 6:

  • Arrange the physical space so children and adults can move around safely. Eliminate open spaces where children are likely to run. Ensure adults can see and have an easy path to reach all areas of the space.
  • Create materials that support the social skills of all children and that help prevent unwanted behaviors (e.g., social stories, choice boards, feelings chart, picture schedules, first/then boards, class expectations poster).
  • Maintain children’s interest in activities by following their lead and incorporating their interests.
  • Children learn best when they feel safe and supported in having their needs met. Respond promptly to children’s verbal and gestural requests for attention and support.
  • Recognize that some children communicate their needs with behavioral cues. Build trust with children who display undesirable behaviors by intentionally and regularly engaging in positive interactions with them.
  • Help children learn during play by asking open-ended questions, incorporating scientific and mathematical concepts (e.g., “Which one is taller?”), introducing new vocabulary, and discussing feelings (e.g., “The baby is crying. How can we make him happy?”).
  • Reinforce positive behaviors and new skills by providing specific encouraging feedback (e.g., “You completed the puzzle on our own!”, “You waited for your turn so patiently.”)
  • When selecting EBPs, ask yourself, “For what population is this effective?” Consider culture, ability, language, socioeconomic status, etc. when choosing and implementing EBPs.

Professionals may have difficulty supporting children with significant disabilities, given their intense needs. The following tips can be used to include these children in meaningful interactions, interventions, and instruction.

Tips for meaningfully including children with intensive needs:

  • Plan activities that naturally meet the needs of and include children with significant disabilities (e.g., play a game in which all children crawl rather than run to support children who are non-ambulatory).
  • Engage in reciprocal interactions at the child’s developmental level. Imitate a nonverbal child’s sounds to encourage a back-and-forth communication pattern.
  • Incorporate extra time and tools for children to do tasks independently rather than doing it for them (e.g., give extra time for a child to put on their coat, supply adapted utensils so children can feed themselves).
  • Individualize your prompting technique and learn what works best for the child. For example, some children may respond better to multiple prompts at once (e.g., verbal and modeling) while others may find this overwhelming. Fade prompts over time to encourage children’s independence.
  • Teach all children (siblings/classmates) about assistive technology that supports children with intensive needs. Give opportunities for other children to use assistive technology with the child (e.g., take turns using a switch, use a communication device to communicate back-and-forth). Supporting siblings and peers in these interactions enables children to get used to assistive technology and helps minimize the stigma that may be associated with the unknown.