Ecological Predictors of School Service Usage and Early Academic Skills in Kindergarten Children with Developmental Disabilities and Delays
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Young children with developmental disabilities and delays often require extra supports in the school environment, yet lag behind their typically developing peers on measures of academic success. However, little is known about factors that influence both the school service use and early academic skills of kindergarten-age children with developmental delays and disabilities. A better understanding of the predictors of school service use and early academic skills for this population of children could inform the development of effective early intervention efforts to increase positive school outcomes. This study examined factors that predict the special service use in school and early academic skill of children identified with a developmental disability or delay prior to school entry. Results from this study found that children identified with a developmental disability or delay prior to school entry utilized a range of school-based services in kindergarten. In addition, over half of the children in this study demonstrated below average achievement at the end of kindergarten. A significant association between family background and child school readiness was found, such that increased risk factors in the home environment predicted poor school readiness skills. Direct effects were also found between child school readiness and school-based service use and early academic skills, indicating that readiness to transition to formal education can influence school-based service use and academic achievement in kindergarten. Finally, an indirect effect on early academic skills by child school readiness as mediated by school-based services was found. This finding demonstrates that the additional supports young children with development disabilities and delays receive at school can positively impact their achievement in kindergarten. This study demonstrates that young children with developmental delays and disabilities and their families could benefit from early intervention services that stress the development of school readiness skills. Such services may decrease the risk of poor school outcomes for this population of children who tend to be at risk of academic failure. Additionally, findings have implications for intervening at the school level, as results found that school-based services are an important part of bolstering the early academic success of young children with developmental delays and disabilities.