Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)


Professional Studies in Education

First Advisor

Mary Anne Hannibal, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Becky Knickelbein, D.Ed.

Third Advisor

Jennifer Rotigel, D.Ed.


Children grow and change more rapidly during the first eight years of life than any other time in their life span. Progression through the physical, cognitive, and social-emotional developmental stages varies for each individual child. Children with atypical development experience a wide spectrum of variability in their development. Over the past several years the Office of Special Education, the Division for Early Childhood Education of the Council for Exceptional Children, and researchers across the world have dedicated themselves to identifying evidence-based practices that improve the developmental trajectory for children with special needs. This study compared the experiences of families, early childhood educators, and early intervention service providers who participated in early intervention implementation. Early intervention describes the array of services, programs, supports, and policies established for improving the development and lives of young children, from birth to age eight, with special needs and their families. Current research and literature have identified the elements of evidence-based practices in early intervention, and documented that high quality intervention positively affects student outcomes. Legislation has provided the regulations which govern the mandated delivery of early intervention services. This study found that the sample of Intermediate Units researched varied in their capacity to deliver early intervention services throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Research identified supports and barriers to early intervention implementation found among the Intermediate Units. Supports for successful early intervention implementation included joint professional development opportunities for early childhood educators and early intervention providers, collaboration between all stakeholders, the use of authentic assessments, and communication which is enhanced when Intermediate Units maintain their own service providers as opposed to contracted service providers. Barriers included difficulty accessing Pennsylvania's early intervention management system, parental concerns, lack of authentic assessment practices, lack of service coordination, lack of communication and partnership with early childhood educators, and variability in service delivery due to operating budgets. Intermediate Units that maintained their own staff and exhibited strong early intervention leadership provided a higher level of early intervention implementation reflecting evidence-based practices, and federal and state law.