The goal of this lesson is to guide you in establishing successful leadership practices for meeting the diverse needs of children and to support you by connecting you to the other TSLP components you will use along the way.
Children’s Diverse Needs
Effective leaders are well informed about the strengths and needs of the children they serve. As you know, exciting development takes place as infant, toddlers, and preschoolers develop and learn. Given the amount of growth and development that occur during early years of life, it is no surprise that children of different ages and developmental stages have very different needs.
In addition to differences in learning and development, children bring diverse home and community experiences to their learning environments. Children may hear and speak a language other than English at home and participate in diverse cultural practices in their homes and communities. As a leader, part of your role is to ensure that care and instruction at your site are responsive to the language and cultural needs of the students you serve.
You and your team will need to plan ways to educate your staff so they can recognize and respond to children’s different learning and developmental needs. You will need to guide teachers in planning care and instruction for children who are linguistically diverse or accelerated in their learning, as well as children who show developmental delays and special needs.
Identifying Diverse Needs
The first step in successfully meeting the diverse needs of children is identifying those needs. This calls for an assessment system—a way to collect information about children that can help identify their strengths and needs. You and your team will play a critical role in establishing effective assessment practices. Your staff will look to you for guidance in using assessment data (information collected on children) to plan quality instruction that meets their needs. In establishing strong assessment practices, you may start by discussing the following questions with your team:
- What types of assessments do we currently use to identify the needs of children (such as developmental checklists, screeners, written observations of children, home surveys)?
- Do our current assessments give accurate and adequate information about children’s needs?
- How do the leaders at our site share information from assessments with instructional staff?
- What professional development do we need to provide so that teachers know how to use the data to understand the different needs of the children they serve?
If you and your team need to focus on establishing these core assessment practices, you can find further guidance in the Assessment module of the TSLP online course.
Lesson 1–A1 and A2: Observation and assessment and Lesson 2–A1 and A2: Appropriate assessment tools provide detailed guidance in establishing an observation system for infants and toddlers. There are few classrooms or programs that have standardized assessments for infants and toddlers, so there are many factors to consider when determining the best way to assess babies and toddlers. These lessons provide guidance on identifying the specific developmental needs in this age group.
These lessons also guide you in selecting and using assessments for children age 3–5. Assessments can include developmental screenings, which can indicate if children are having difficulty adjusting to the environment and experiencing learning challenges. In Lesson 3–A3: Assessment to inform instruction, you will find resources and information about supporting teachers in using data to provide instruction that meets the diverse needs of children.
Finally, as you identify the needs of all children, consider how assessments might differ for children who speak a language other than English at home and are developing English as a second language. You will need to ensure that the specialist or assessment administrator uses dual language assessments to assess an English learner (EL) child. This is important to correctly determine whether the child has true language delay or simply has limited English proficiency. You want to be able to inform staff about the true needs of English learners and ensure that no students are mistakenly identified with language delays. Knowing the differences between language differences and learning delays will allow your staff to provide the specialized language support and language instruction that is appropriate to the identified need.
TO LEARN MORE: The National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition has videos, webinars, and articles to help you understand the needs of English language learners. You may also want to review the following resources:
The Publications section of the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center has many useful documents. Scroll down the page to download the guide “Developmental Screening and Assessment Instruments with an Emphasis on Social and Emotional Development for Young Children Ages Birth through Five.”
The Early Childhood Outcomes and Prekindergarten Guidelines Alignment is a downloadable document that provides modifications and adaptations for children with special needs. It also includes a developmental continuum for teachers.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website contains valuable information about speech or hearing delays.
The National Association for Gifted Children website contains information and links to other sites that are helpful for staff working with gifted children.
The Council for Exceptional Children website contains information about all types of special needs and makes suggestions and articles to support you.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website contains helpful information about developmental milestones for young children.