Preschool through Kindergarten NE/LRE Team Decision Making Module  

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Build on partner’s current skills and knowledge


 Building on partner’s skills & knowledge
  • Ask partners about successful strategies they’ve already identified.
  • Provide information about why partners’ positive actions/interactions with a child “works”.
  • Give credit to partners e.g., ask if you can share their ideas and strategies with others.
  • Prompt partners to consider how a child’s behavior and or learning style might be similar to other children they have worked with.



A key element in establishing collaborative partnerships is to look for, and reinforce, “what works” i.e., what a partner says and does that help a child learn and participate with peers. Effective collaboration reinforces (without interrupting) adult-child interaction, and supports a partner’s ability to help a child achieve specific goals. Reflection is also a strategy that builds on, and enhances, a partner’s current skills and knowledge.  

“What works” actions and interactions to look for, and build on:


Asking families “what works” 

Dep always sang songs from her own childhood to Lam to help settle him down for a rest. Lauren, Lam’s Head Start teacher, realized that she could never imitate Dep’s Vietnamese lyrics properly, and suggested that Dep make an audiotape of her songs. Lauren played the tape for Lam at rest time, and discovered that many of the other children also quieted down when she played the songs.

Lam’s consulting special educator, Marcia, congratulated Lauren for integrating Lam’s cultural background in a daily class routine. Marcia suggested that the children were responding to the rhythm and melody of Dep’s song, and did not need to understand her words. Marcia then asked about other times of the day that she could help Lauren engage Lam in his new environment despite his limited understanding of English.


Accommodating a child’s special needs.

Roberta, a physical therapist, was delighted to see that Brandon’s teacher, Sarah, helped him change his position periodically from sitting upright in his wheelchair.

Roberta explained to Sarah, “I noticed how well Brandon listened to your story while he was resting on the mat. When you change his position periodically, it keeps him from getting tired from trying to sit up and follow directions at the same time. Could I take a picture of your story hour to show other teachers?”

Respecting a child’s cultural, linguistic, and family background.

Barrera & Kramer, 2009; Bruns & Fowler, 2001.

Mohammed did not understand any English, and his parents told Shonique, his preschool teacher, that he also had trouble understanding the Farsi they spoke at home. Shonique asked the parents for a list of the words in Farsi that Mohammed understood, and most important, how to pronounce them. She passed the list around to every adult who came in contact with Mohammed, and taught all the children to say hello and goodbye in Farsi.

Mayra, an early childhood special educator, made a point of complimenting Shonique for listening to Mohammad’s parents and coming up with a strategy that helped their son interact with other people in both languages.

Using developmentally appropriate materials and activities. NAEYC 2009.

Julie, a family child care provider, agreed to care for Stacy who had limited vision and loved dogs and cats. Julie found puzzles with colorful, simple pictures of pets to interest Stacy. She encouraged the other children to take turns choosing a puzzle piece, telling Stacy what it was, and then handing it to her to fit in the correct spot.


Elana, an early childhood special educator, pointed out during her bi-monthly consultation visit that Julie’s activity also encouraged interaction between Stacy and the other children, one of her IEP goals.


Asking families about a child’s interests and abilities , to encourage activities with their peers. Sandall & Schwartz, 2008

Noellia, a preschool teacher, learned from Kent and Kelly that their son, Charlie, only played with red toys. So the teacher stocked a shelf with red puzzles, cars and blocks, gave Charlie a red carpet to mark his circle spot, poured cranberry juice for snack during his first week, and wore a red shirt on his first day of preschool.


Promoting interactions between children with special needs and their typical peers.

Surinder understood what he heard, but had no verbal language, due to motor delays from cerebral palsy. He could use “yes” and “no” hands, however, and would hold one of them up in response to a question. Jackie, the classroom assistant, practiced counting to five quietly with the other children to give Surinder time to raise a hand when asked a question.


Lilly, and early childhood special educator, invited Jackie to share her success with other team members at their next staffing and used her cell phone to video Surinder interacting with his friends.


Viewing the environment through a child’s eyes.

Kaatje was tiny for her age, at least 12 inches shorter than most of the other children in her child care group. Her teacher, Rachel, placed a wooden platform at Kaatje’s spot (wide enough so she wouldn’t fall off) at the easel in the art corner so she could see her friends eye-to-eye and talk while painting.


Kaatje’s speech therapist noted the increase in her fluency, and complimented Rachel on setting up a play situation that facilitated Kaatje’s turn taking and eye contact, prompting her to talk more with her classmates.


Adapting materials, toys, schedules, and the environment.

Ryan could only get around his preschool when pushed in his wheelchair. Imagine his mother’s delight (and Ryans) when she saw her son move on his own for the first time in an electric car donated to the program. Maribel, his teacher, asked Ryan to drive the car at recess each day, and choose a passenger for a ride across the black top.


Ryan’s consulting physical therapist asked Maribel, “Would you be a resource for other teachers about the importance of finding ways for young children to move on their own to motivate them to play and learn?”


Accommodating each child’s coping and learning styles.

Quentin liked to look at picture books of cars and trucks but needed a quiet place to focus. The summer program in his neighborhood recreation center was anything but quiet. However, one of the teenage assistants brought her headphones for Quentin so he could read to calm down when he needed a break.


The assistant beamed when Vanessa, Quentin’s occupational therapist, remarked, “The head phones you brought in really worked to ‘dial down” Quentin’s distraction to sounds. For the first time ever, he’s finished a book and went back to the activity on his own!”