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For the child's sake, we need to do something : an examination of teachers' beliefs and experiences regarding referrral of young children to early intervention services : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Education (Special Education) at Massey University
This is a study of the challenges that teachers face, in deciding whether a child should be referred for external early intervention support. Teachers reveal their thought, beliefs and experiences around referral and early intervention, and reflect on their own teaching practice, with a view to informing the field and developing appropriate professional development strategies. The central purpose of this study is to examine whether all children who need early intervention are being identified and referred to appropriate support systems. The research was conducted in three phases. In the first phase, 50 teachers completed a questionnaire that captured baseline data around referral beliefs, practices, and experiences. From the belief that research should have reciprocal benefits for the researcher and participants, the second phase of the research then brought together early childhood teachers and early intervention practitioners for a workshop (question and answer time) on questions relating to identification and referral within teachers' specific setting or situation. The final stage documented the discussions and reflections of one early childhood centre as they engaged in the process of developing a policy that would guide them in referral decision making. The result of this dialogue is a series of reflective questions that all early childhood centres may use as a framework for policy creation and professional development. Many issues arise within the study, particularly around partnership with parents, cultural considerations, appropriate assessment tools, the need for policy and ongoing professional support and development, which are examined in light of contemporary research, particularly within the New Zealand setting. The findings clearly indicate that while some strong foundations are in place, there is still a way to go before the early childhood field can unequivocally state without reservation that all children who need support services are receiving them.