• February 2014
  • Vol. 15, No. 2

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Serving Young Children With Special Needs

Even with thousands of children receiving early intervention and special education services in Missouri, many children and families in the State are underserved. To better meet their needs, the Community Partnership—an organization that works to match public and private funding, resources, and programs to achieve better results for children, families, and communities—established the Capable Kids and Families program (CKF). A new report from Chapin Hall provides evaluation data from the program's second year.

The program, which focuses on children birth to 6 years, has three primary components:

  1. Home visiting. Specialists visit with families to offer developmental activities, discuss family needs and provide referrals, and coordinate therapy equipment needs. These visits also are intended to help decrease isolation and stress, boost confidence, and increase awareness of other resources.
  2. Therapy equipment loans. CKF has purchased more than 1,700 pieces of therapy equipment, including books, tapes, and toys, that families can borrow free of charge. Equipment is available to address a wide range of developmental areas, such as gross and fine motor skills, speech and language, and sensory integration. This helps families to continue therapeutic activities throughout the week and not only during therapy sessions.
  3. Supportive group meetings and activities. CKF encourages socialization among the families to promote resource sharing and peer support, which can help parents discuss issues, learn new skills, and alleviate feelings of isolation. The program also has inclusive playgroups that provide experiences for children of all abilities.

In 2011, the Community Partnership contracted Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago to evaluate CKF. The evaluation included a comparison group of families receiving services from programs other than CKF and utilized a mail survey and focus groups to collect data. There were few differences between the CKF service recipients and the comparison group in terms of their experiences and satisfaction with services. CKF families, however, used therapeutic services more frequently than the comparison group, but this could be related to the fact that children receiving CKF services had more (and more severe) disabilities or diagnoses. CKF families also had higher rates of satisfaction with their relationships with service professionals than the comparison families.

Another benefit of the CKF program that emerged from the focus groups was that the CKF program includes all family members when teaching families how to incorporate therapeutic activities into regular routines as opposed to other programs, which may only include some family members. Focus group participants receiving CKF services also found the monthly playgroups and other group activities to be very helpful and supportive.

To view the full report, Evaluation of the Capable Kids and Families Program: Year 2 Findings, visit the Chapin Hall website:

http://www.chapinhall.org/research/report/evaluation-capable-kids-and-families-program-year-2-findings

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