Foundations for Self-Determination in Early Childhood: Preliminary Preschool Study

  • Susan B. PalmerEmail author
  • Kandace K. Fleming
  • Jean Ann Summers
  • Elizabeth J. Erwin
  • Susan P. Maude
  • Mary Jane Brotherson
  • Vera Stroup-Rentier
  • Shana J. Haines
  • Yuzhu Z. Zheng
  • Nancy F. Peck
  • Hsiang-Yi Wu



Foundations for self-determination begin in early childhood for children with disabilities with the onset of self-regulation and engagement in activities at home, school, and in the community. This article describes the development and preliminary results of an intervention model that encourages collaborative practices for parents and teachers around short-term goal setting to adjust environments for young children with special needs or at risk for delay.


The Foundations Intervention was used with 48 children in authentic early childhood settings and involved parents, teachers, and a facilitator to enhance children’s self-regulation and engagement at home and school.


Results showed feasibility of the intervention; positive child outcomes in goal attainment, self-regulation, and engagement measures were also evident.


When parents and teachers communicated about a child’s strengths and needs within routines at home and school, this appeared to strengthen parent and teacher connections and helped children become more engaged or regulated in daily activities.


Self-determination Goal setting Preschool special education Families 



The research reported here was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R324A090267 to the University of Kansas. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute of Education Sciences or the U.S. Department of Education.

Author Contributions

SBP was the study design team co-leader, executed the study and lead the writing team for the paper. KKF analyzed the data and co-wrote the paper. JAS was the study design team co-leader and co-wrote the paper. EJE was a study design team member, executed the study, and co-wrote the paper. MJB and SPM were part of the study design team and executed the study. VS, SJH, ZZ, NP, and HW executed the study and contributed to the paper.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Informed consent was given by all adult participants in the study, with families signing for minor children who were engaged in goals within the study. The University of Kansas, Iowa State University, and Montclair State University provided IRB approval for the study.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan B. Palmer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kandace K. Fleming
    • 1
  • Jean Ann Summers
    • 1
  • Elizabeth J. Erwin
    • 2
  • Susan P. Maude
    • 3
  • Mary Jane Brotherson
    • 4
  • Vera Stroup-Rentier
    • 5
  • Shana J. Haines
    • 6
  • Yuzhu Z. Zheng
    • 7
  • Nancy F. Peck
    • 8
  • Hsiang-Yi Wu
    • 1
  1. 1.KUCDD, Beach Center on DisabilityUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA
  2. 2.Montclair State UniversityMontclairUSA
  3. 3.Maude Consulting, LLCWashingtonUSA
  4. 4.Iowa State UniversityAmesUSA
  5. 5.WestatRockvilleUSA
  6. 6.University of VermontBurlingtonUSA
  7. 7.Boise State UniversityBoiseUSA
  8. 8.Keene State UniversityKeeneUSA

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