Preschool through Kindergarten NE/LRE Team Decision Making Module  

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Reflect with partners about a child’s participation and progress


Effective reflection
  • Solicit, and listen to partners’ perspectives before offering your own.
  • Invite discussion about teaching strategies that prompt a child’s progress.
  • Ask open-ended questions to promote observation about “what works”, such as:
  • “What have you found that helps to….?”
  • “How else could you try to prompt him to…?”
  • “When you said/did…… what happened?” 


  •  A Framework for Reflective Questioning When Using a Coaching Interaction Style Rush, Shelden, & Raab, 2008

Reflection focuses on prompting a partner’s observations or assessment about the effectiveness of modifications and adaptations in prompting a child’s learning, behavior and participation. It is based on asking open-ended questions to solicit a partner’s perspective before special education or early intervention specialists share their perspectives and recommendations.


Such a discussion provides valuable information about a child’s performance and participation within a specific context, and is central to identifying teaching strategies that are anchored in a child’s “real life”.


Paula’s story: Reflection before offering suggestions

Paula, a special educator, observed Barati sitting on the floor with two other girls, leaning on one hand to balance herself while she tried to fold paper to make a fan.

Before making any suggestions, Paula asked the teacher for her observations about Barati. Paula learned that for the first time, Barati had been invited by the other girls to join their play. The teacher was thrilled, and said while she knew Barati’s positioning wasn’t the best for using construction toys, the last thing she wanted to do was disrupt this wonderful interaction.

Paula agreed, complimented the teacher for not disrupting an emerging social skill, and silently congratulated herself for not disrupting it either. She then engaged the teacher in a reflection about prompting Barati’s fine motor skills during other activities. With Paula’s prompting, the teacher came up with the idea of placing a low stool in the art corner to give the girls a higher surface for Barati (and the other girls) to rest their forearms while they folded the paper.



Reflect on this...

  • Consider a self assessment of your collaboration skills (Johns Hopkins University, Center for Technology and Education). 

Nurturing relationships and diminishing professional distance

In addition to supporting partners’ reflections, early intervention, special education, and related services personnel also need to self-reflect about their interactions. Partners may perceive early childhood specialists as “The Experts” who are likely to judge or evaluate them.


Be careful not to communicate this message:

“I’ll teach you what I think you ought to know/do.”


Instead, specialists can share their expertise and support their partners in their roles as early childhood teachers, child care providers and family members:

“Let’s share observations and ideas about how to meet this child’s needs in your classroom/program.”


Strategies for nurturing relationships and diminishing professional distance

The goal is for early intervention, special education and related services personnel to be viewed as helpful and knowledgeable about young children with disabilities. Consider how the following strategies can promote an interaction with partners that leads to this statement:


“Jenna’s special educator listens to me, and shares ideas that work!”

Clarify partners' expectations.
Minimize the perception of power & status.
Assure that all recommendations can be modified.
Offer, don't insist on, suggestions & strategies.

  • Clarify partners’ expectations about how special education and early intervention personnel will provide their services, and what “helpful help” would look like.

Find out if partners have ever worked with a special educator or therapist as well as cared for/taught a “child like Darnell.” If so, what was the experience like?


Only 1% of preschool teachers preferred “consultation only” from specialists in a study of preschool teachers working in accredited early childhood programs Co-teaching, and support tasks (e.g., demonstrating intervention techniques, adapting toys and materials, and developing a written intervention plan with partner input) were strong teacher preferences in this study. McDonnell, Brownell, & Wolery, 2001

  • Minimize the perception of power and status that early childhood specialists may have.

Encourage partners’ choice in scheduling visits as well as identifying what is already working to add recommendations to help a child participate in a specific setting.


Be alert to power imbalances in collaborative relationships when one partner is perceived as having more status, knowledge or influence than another. Power imbalances lead to a lack of commitment in following through with suggested intervention, and create negative attitudes about working together.
Giangreco et al, 2002; Harris & Cancelli, 1991


  • Assure partners that any suggestion or strategy can, and probably will be, modified and adapted.

Changes in a child’s performance and/or environment as well as a partner’s comfort level with implementing suggestions should signal a time to reflect on a child’s intervention plan and progress. Recognize that making a recommendation is only the beginning point; partners may need more assistance with implementing a new strategy precisely because it is unfamiliar. How, when and where are important considerations to talk through, and demonstrate, with a partner.


  • Offer, don’t insist on, suggestions and strategies.

Every time a suggestion is offered, ask partners, “How will this work for you?” If there is any doubt in a partner’s mind about how or why to implement a suggestion, encourage your partner to express his/her concerns by asking open-ended questions such as:

  • What are your concerns?
  • How can I help you try these strategies?
  • How might they work more effectively in your class/program/group?