Earlier in June, I was fortunate enough to attend ISEI’s conference on Children’s Rights and Early Intervention. In this post, I reflect on the conference.
The International Society on Early Intervention holds a major conference very three to four years. This years’ conference focused on the rights of all children to develop to their full potential and to participate without barriers in all aspects of society Encouraging and supporting the inclusion of children with developmental delays and disabilities in natural environments, including family settings, child care, and preschool programs, is at the core of maximizing children’s rights. Indeed, the concept of full participation is consistent with two United Nations treaties that address these rights: Convention on the Rights of the Child and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The conference was dedicated to Ulf Janson who dedicated, devoted much of his professional life to promoting the rights of young children with disabilities, understanding the nature of social inclusion, and advocating for the full inclusion of all children and their families and Franz Peterander, Ph.D. Professor, Ludwig-Maximilians University reminded us of his commitment to ECI.
In this conference, early intervention was proposed as a basic right of all vulnerable children, and was explored from many perspectives. Issues related to access, equity, quality, and accountability were considered to be paramount. Strengthening families, training professional personnel, promoting social-emotional development, conducting reliable, valid, and culturally appropriate assessments, exploring issues related to institutional care and deinstitutionalization, examining the impact, prevention, and treatment of trauma, abuse, and neglect, testing and evaluating new strategies and techniques to promote a child’s development to the fullest, and developing approaches to enhance social inclusion were among the topics included. The development and evaluation of policies in individual countries or regions within countries to ensure that early intervention is among the rights of young children provided an important context.
Mike Guralnick, Chair of ISEI
The conference opened with an inspirational and moving performance from Adolf Fredrik’s Music School Youth Chorus. Following this, there were opening addresses from Anders Gustavsson, Ph.D. Professor, Stockholm University, Astrid Söderbergh Widding, Ph.D, President, Stockholm University and Mike Guralnick. During his address Mike announced Barry Carpenter’s recent award of Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition to his service to the field of Special Education Needs. Barry is an Independent Education Consultant from the UK and Carolyn has worked with Barry on research projects and publications.
The conference proceeded with plenary and parallel sessions focussed on a wide range of topics that were provided by and for 600 delegates from 55 countries. In addition delegates were invited to a wine and canapés at the Stockholm Town Hall where Nobel Peace Prizes are awarded.
Mike Guralnick, Chair of ISEI, described the conference as a landmark event in Early Intervention, stressing that there is currently a humanitarian crisis for vulnerable children. He explained that we need a systems based approach to services which must be coordinated within a team and work with parents. There needs to be universal agreement that every child has a right to early intervention.
Professor Eva Björck Åkesson talked about an ecological transactional model and a biopsychosocial perspective which was focused on the preschool as an environment for participation, interaction, and development in the context of early intervention in Sweden. She explained that engagement and togetherness needs to be further researched and we need to be solution oriented, as there are many challenges to overcome in the field of early intervention.
Dr. Emily Baron Vargas talked about Building Sustainable National Systems for Early Childhood Intervention from her work at the RISE Institute that assists nations to develop strategic plans, systems, and programs for early childhood intervention (ECI) and hosts the Early Childhood Development (ECD) Task Force of the Global Partnership on Children with Disabilities.
Dr. Pia Rebello Britto (Global Chief and Senior Advisor, Early Childhood Development, UNICEF, New York) urged us to take Early Childhood Interventions into the sustainable development era. She argued that all children need good nutrition, stimulation and safety and protection in order to thrive. However, significant numbers of children around the world do not experience these basic human rights, which leads to unmet human potential. It is the role of the early childhood intervention community to change this. She challenged us to mobilise resources and raise the profile of this with policy makers.
Pia Britto talks about neuroscience and epigenetics
There were a series of Master Lectures provided by international speakers on a wide range of EI subjects. A number of members of Eurlyaid attended and presented at the conference.
I chaired a session on Language and Communication and presented two parallel sessions on a) Young children’s use of private speech in early years settings from my PhD findings and b) Applying relational pedagogy and professional love to early childhood intervention services.
The full programme for the conference can be found here https://depts.washington.edu/isei/ISEI_Program.pdf. The next conference will be held in Sydney in 2019.