Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education (EI/ECSE) and early childhood mental health services: A qualitative study of programs in Oregon
Lawrence, Karen A., 1952-
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Lawrence, Karen A., 1952-
Incorporation of a mental health focus into Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education (EI/ECSE) services is considered critical by many professionals due to the vulnerability of young children with disabilities to developing behavior problems, mental health disorders, and to experiencing maltreatment. This qualitative research study investigated ways personnel in EI/ECSE agencies in Oregon are addressing the mental health needs of the children and families they serve. How mental health is conceptualized by EI/ECSE providers, how well prepared providers are in addressing the needs, what kinds of strategies are used to serve children and families, and how adequately EI/ECSE families and children are served by the mental health system were explored. The study was divided into two parts, which included a state-wide study of 14 EI/ECSE agencies in five regions in Oregon, and an in-depth study of one EI/ECSE agency that has employed a mental health consultant. State-wide agencies were mainly located in rural parts of the state, although two education service districts in metropolitan areas were included. The perspectives of 10 mental health providers from community mental health centers were also collected. The most salient issues that surfaced in the state-wide study included the focus of EI/ECSE concern on behavioral and mental health problems in children ages three through five and strategies for related behavior management in classroom settings, the importance of collaboration with community agencies, and a desire for increased partnership with mental health. Interviews with both EI/ECSE and mental health agencies revealed problems in the mental health system including training of therapists in working with very young children, gaps in services for children who were not Medicaid-eligible and in services for parents with their own psychological issues, and in the capacity to serve all of the children who were referred. The in-depth study focused on one EI/ECSE agency that was developing staff competence in relationship-based work with families through support from a mental health consultant employed by the agency. Salient issues included funding for a mental health consultant in an educational agency, development of mental health services for early childhood through community collaboration, and supporting staff through reflective supervision.
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Oregon Survey Research Laboratory; University of Oregon. Student Health Center (Oregon Survey Research Laboratory, University of Oregon, 2003)
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