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The Role of Early Care Providers in Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education Systems


Children with disabilities between the ages of 0–5 and their families are supported by a broad coalition of special education and general education teachers and providers who collaborate in the planning and delivery of services. When services are provided in early care settings (e.g., home care, center-based care, general education Pre-K), evidence has shown that the integration of services can be a significant challenge for families. We interviewed 12 early care providers to determine their role in special education service planning and provision. Thematic analysis of the data showed that early care providers are often overlooked as contributing team members and frequently excluded from Individual Family Service Program (IFSP) and Individual Education Program (IEP) development and meetings. Despite these challenges, early care providers acted as advocates and information sources for families from referral and service provision through to the transition to kindergarten. They also often advocated for inclusion, insisting that therapists embed therapy into the children’s routines. Our findings showed that early care providers were critical to effective teaming and inclusive practices.

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Correspondence to Mary E. Sheppard.

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This research was not funded and there are no conflicts of interest to report.

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This study was approved by Saint Joseph’s University’s IRB.

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Sheppard, M.E., Moran, K.K. The Role of Early Care Providers in Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education Systems. Early Childhood Educ J 50, 891–901 (2022).

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  • Early intervention
  • Preschool special education
  • Early care provider
  • Collaborative teams