Solid social emotional skills are an extremely important part of life. These skills enable us to function within a family, with friends and in society. Developing social and emotional skills is a key milestone in early childhood development. Without these skills, children may grow up isolated from the warmth and joy of forming close family bonds and other social interactions.
“Social and emotional growth serves as a trajectory for later in life,” said Alicia Sharma, Quality Improvement Manager for the Arizona Early Intervention Program (AzEIP). That is why AzEIP is focusing on this important milestone in childhood development. And for four consecutive years, AzEIP has exceeded its own expectations.
According to Sharma, “Social-emotional growth is the foundation for early language and literacy. If kids don’t have social-emotional skills, they might have language delays and they likely won’t read by the time they are in third grade.”
Part of AzEIP’s strategic plan is to develop new reports and technical assistance to support early intervention programs and improve their ability to collect timely and accurate data. These improvements impelled AzEIP to increase its targeted outcomes to 72.01% from 65% over the past four years. AzEIP then steadily increased its actual outcomes to 77.4% from 68.90%, consistently exceeding its targets.
“We’re really trying to make sure that our work has an impact on parents’ relationship and confidence in raising their children with disabilities,” explained Sharma. “In Arizona, we have a higher than average number of children on Medicaid and in foster care, and we know that they have those disruptive social relationships. In addition, we are dealing with the opioid crisis. All of these issues affect a child’s ability to learn and grow as we would expect.”
AzEIP’s Success Garners National Exposure
Because of its accomplishments, AzEIP was invited to present its successful strategies and exceptional outcomes at the 34th Annual International Conference on Young Children with Special Needs and Their Families, October 23 in Orlando, Florida. The conference, hosted by the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) Division of Early Childhood (DEC), is an organization of professionals and families who work with or on behalf of children (ages 0 through 8) with disabilities and their families and caregivers.
Sharma shared the results of AzEIP’s pilot program, officially known as State-Identified Measurable Result (SiMR). The SiMR goal: Arizona will increase the percent of children who exit early intervention in identified regions (the pilot areas), with greater than expected improvements in social and emotional development. Outcomes of the pilot region, which have a collective nine early intervention programs and span a mix of urban, rural and tribal areas, represent 40 percent of the children and families served by AzEIP.
In addition to presenting AzEIP’s results, Sharma provided a comparison of nationwide data with a focus on the specific strategies used in Arizona. Other presenters included representatives from the Office of Special Education Programs, the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center, the National Center for Systemic Improvement, and Arizona’s intervention counterparts from Florida.
“AzEIP is honored to have been invited to share our success in achieving greater than expected social emotional outcomes for children and families with this national audience,” said AzEIP Program Administrator Jenee Sisnroy.
Arizona SiMR Targets
|SiMR Region %
||Pending release of Federal Fiscal Year data - October 1, 2017 through September 30, 2018
By Lyn Riley