Early interventionists hold inaugural meeting at York

More than 150 early childhood educators, practitioners, community support workers, medical professionals and researchers will gather this Saturday at York’s Keele campus to participate in the inaugural meeting of the Early Interventionists in Ontario Network.

The meeting, intended to foster discussion about research and practice in early intervention, offers a forum for people from different disciplines to discuss common needs, experiences, research and new advances and approaches in the field.

Early intervention, says Isabel Killoran, York education professor and the meeting’s organizer, focuses on providing supports and services to young children and their families at a key time in the child’s development.

Right: Isabel Killoran

Arising out of a need for an Ontario perspective, Killoran and York education PhD candidate Sonia Mastrangelo have worked together to make the meeting a reality. The pair have put in many long hours to create a program that would appeal to all individuals working across the spectrum of early intervention. This Saturday, their dream comes true.

"The meeting on Saturday actually arose from the annual international conference that was held in Niagara Falls in October of last year for The Division for Early Childhood  of the Council for Exceptional Children," says Killoran. "As president of the Ontario subdivision, I was the local arrangements chair for the October conference. Educators, practitioners and researchers working with young children with disabilities and their families, who were at the conference got together and talked about the need for networking so that we know what’s going on in research and practice in the different regions in Ontario."

Killoran says that early interventionists articulated a need for having a way to connect and understand what inroads were being made in research. "A lot of data are collected by governments but we often don’t have access to it, or see the results related to outcomes," says Killoran. "What we’re trying to do now is provide a forum for a stronger Canadian voice. The Division for Early Childhood  is a powerful international advocacy and research group based in the United States. There is a need for a more vocal Canadian perspective and a more organized structure for advocacy and research in Ontario."

When word got out in the early interventionist community in Ontario, Killoran and Mastrangelo were overwhelmed by the demand. "We unfortunately had to cut off the registration two weeks early and we have a waiting list. We are at capacity," says Mastrangelo, coordinator of the meeting. "It really shows the need for this kind of meeting."

Right: Sonia Mastrangelo

What is really exciting, says Mastrangelo, is the range of people attending from all across Ontario – researchers, medical doctors, early childhood practitioners and staff from community support organizations. "There are many voices in this transdisciplinary field to be heard from."

The response has been overwhelming and the hope is that this will be the beginning of many more networking  and research opportunities for early interventionists and researchers in Ontario, says Killoran. Mastrangelo and Killoran have  brought together a stellar list of speakers including autism research pioneer Professor Stuart Shanker, director of the Milton & Ethel Harris Research Initiative and a distinguished research professor of psychology at York University. Shanker will deliver the keynote address, titled "In Search of Pathways that Lead to Mentally Healthy Children".

Killoran and Mastrangelo have worked hard to structure a dynamic program which is interspersed with many opportunities for participants to meet and discuss their needs and shared experiences. The meeting will wrap up with a large group discussion about future networking and research direction facilitated by Killoran and Ryerson University Professor Kathryn Underwood.

For more information, including a full list of speakers and the agenda, visit the Early Interventionists in Ontario Meeting Web site.