Meeting the Need: Proposed Early Childhood Special Education Intensive Intervention Competencies for Preservice Preparation




Early childhood special education, intensive intervention, developmentally appropriate practice, preservice teacher preparation, data-based decision-making


Improving outcomes for young children with high-intensity needs requires a high-quality workforce trained in equitable, intensive, individualized instructional practices and supports incorporating culturally and linguistically responsive evidence- based practices (Gunn, 2020) and developmentally appropriate practices (DAP; NAEYC, 2021) Nationally recommended practices (Division of Early Childhood [DEC], 2014) and teacher preparation standards (DEC, 2020) provide the frameworks for early childhood special education training. However, guidance on intensifying individualized instructional practices and supports is needed. The intensive intervention taxonomy (Fuchs et al., 2017) offers educators guidance on improving the effectiveness and intensity of interventions for K-12 students for whom current approaches are unsuccessful. However, more guidance is needed on intensifying instruction in early childhood (0-8 years old). To offer support to early intervention/ early childhood special education (EI/ECSE) education preparation programs, we offer an adapted version of the taxonomy that is transformed into competencies that EI/ECSE educators with expertise in supporting young children with high-intensity needs. We ground these competencies in a strengths-based (Wehmeyer, 2019), culturally responsive approach to learning and instruction (Gay, 2010). Next, we aligned these competencies with critical features of early childhood (e.g., naturalistic instruction, family partnerships, DAP). We offer these competencies and a sample program of study to ensure EI/ECSE educators are equipped with intensification competencies through their pre-service preparation to support all young children, including those with high-intensity support needs.


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Author Biographies

Maria Hugh, University of Kansas

Maria Hugh is an Assistant Professor of Special Education at the University of Kansas. An early childhood special educator and board-certified behavior analyst by training, Dr. Hugh focuses on improving outcomes for young children with developmental disabilities by partnering with pre- and in-service educators to teach and learn about feasible and effective individualized instructional practices and supports in inclusive early learning contexts. Currently, to support the generalized and sustained use of effective practices for all young children, her research aims to 1) identify usable individualized intervention practices that improve learning opportunities, 2) explore individual and organizational implementation mechanisms, and 3) test professional development supports that facilitate intervention decision-making and implementation. Dr. Hugh partners with schools and communities using mixed methods approaches to pursue these aims. Maria earned her PhD in Education Psychology as a National Center for Leadership In Intensive Intervention (NCLII) scholar at the University of Minnesota.

Kathleen Tuck, University of Kansas

Kathleen Tuck is an assistant professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of Kansas. Kathleen earned her doctoral degree in Special Education from Vanderbilt University. Kathleen is a board certified behavior analyst and held dual-teaching certifications in elementary general and special education. She is a former public school teacher for elementary students with and at-risk for disabilities in self-contained and inclusive classrooms. Kathleen's research focuses on the identification of evidence-based instructional practices for students with behavioral support needs in general education settings and improving the methodology and synthesis of single case research design studies. Kathleen also engages in partnerships with teachers and paraprofessionals to identify effective coaching strategies to support the implementation of academic and behavioral interventions to improve student engagement in inclusive settings.

Alana Schnitz

Dr. Schnitz is an assistant research professor at Juniper Gardens Children's Project. She completed her PhD. in Early Childhood Special Education from Vanderbilt University and was a Head Start Research Scholar for two years. Her dissertation evaluated the efficacy of the Positive Solutions for Families Intervention. Alana was formerly the research coordinator for the IES Goal 2 Teaching Pyramid Research Project. She also has participated in research around the Pyramid model, including coaching teachers to implement practices associated with the model. She has worked with Head Start teachers and families providing teacher and parent training, technical assistance to teachers, and providing behavioral support to families. Alana has 14 years of experience working with children who exhibit challenging behaviors as a coach; behavior specialist; and residential, family, and crisis counselor. She is also a Board Certified Behavior Analysts.

Lisa Didion

Lisa Didion is an Assistant Professor at the University of Kansas. She received her PhD from The University of Texas at Austin in May of 2019 and was a scholar with the National Center for Leadership in Intensive Intervention (NCLII). She received her undergraduate degree in special education at the University of Missouri-Columbia and her master’s at Vanderbilt University. Lisa’s primary research interests are data literacy and teacher professional development. Specifically, Lisa investigates progress monitoring and self-monitoring as it pertains to students and teachers for reading interventions. Her current research is focused on a program called Data Mountain, which teaches students with disabilities how to self-monitor their reading performance for improved outcomes. Lisa has previously taught elementary special education in inclusive settings for 6 years.

Andrea Nelson, University of Kansas

Andrea Nelson is a Project Coordinator at the University of Kansas Center for Developmental Disabilities (KUCDD) and early childhood special educator. Andrea holds a Master’s in Early Childhood from the University of Kansas and has taught and provided early intervention and early childhood special education services in a variety of settings for over twenty years. She is a coach and consultant on early intervention practices and routines-based interviewing.



How to Cite

Hugh, M., Tuck, K., Schnitz, A., Didion, L., & Nelson, A. (2024). Meeting the Need: Proposed Early Childhood Special Education Intensive Intervention Competencies for Preservice Preparation. Journal of Special Education Preparation, 4(1), 36–46.



Special Issue on Early Childhood