The Exceptional Child: Inclusion in Early Childhood Education, 4th edition. – book review
William H. Brown
Eileen K. Allen and Ilene S. Schwartz, Albany, NY: Delmar, 2001, 370 pp., softcover $60.95
During the last three decades, as services for preschoolers with and without developmental delays have expanded in the United States, the need for high-quality textbooks for courses in early childhood education and early childhood special education has also increased. As a faculty member with responsibilities for teaching courses in early childhood special education at the University of South Carolina, I have used a number of textbooks during the last several years. Recently, in an Introduction to Early Childhood Special Education course, I employed the fourth edition of The Exceptional Child: Inclusion in Early Childhood Education (hereafter referred to as The Exceptional Child) by Eileen K. Allen and Ilene S. Schwartz. My purpose in the remainder of this brief book review is to share information about The Exceptional Child with TECSE readers. I hope that this review will assist other instructors in determining whether to review or use the textbook in their early childhood education and early childhood special education courses.
As an early childhood education or early childhood special education textbook, The Exceptional Child has two fundamental strengths. First, as significant contributors to the professional literature, Allen and Schwartz’s extensive knowledge concerning the fields of early childhood education and early childhood special education is well represented throughout the text. Second, the critical theme of inclusion of young children with developmental difficulties is well integrated in the book. Indeed, the authors furnish a revised edition of their previous textbook that is contemporary and relatively comprehensive in nature. The basic format of the textbook includes 19 chapters arranged in four major sections: Section I–Early Intervention and Public Policy, Section II–Likeness and Differences Among Children, Section III–Planning for Inclusion, and Section IV–Implementing Inclusive Early Childhood Programs.
In the three chapters of Section I (Early Intervention and Public Policy), Allen and Schwartz present rudimentary knowledge about early childhood education and early childhood special education. In two chapters they focus on fundamental information concerning early childhood inclusion, including a working definition, contemporary perspectives, potential benefits, common concerns and challenges of educators, and recommended practices for inclusion of young children from birth through 8 years of age. In the final chapter of Section I, they review federal legislation related to disabilities and special education and the evolution of early intervention services in the United States. Hence, in Section I of The Exceptional Child, the authors provide the foundation for the paramount theme of their textbook: inclusion of young children with developmental delays in early childhood programs.
In the five chapters of Section II (Likeness and Differences Among Children), Allen and Schwartz present essential information about developmental disabilities. They discuss contemporary information concerning normal and exceptional child development in one chapter and, in another, specifics about the causes and classifications of developmental disabilities. In separate chapters in Section II they address the potential influences of sensory impairments, physical disabilities and health problems, and learning and behavior difficulties common to many young children (e.g., attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder, learning disabilities, pervasive developmental disorder, behavior disorders). Hence, in Section II the authors begin to develop another critical theme for their textbook: the need for individualized planning and services for young children with developmental difficulties.
In the three chapters of Section III (Planning for Inclusion), Allen and Schwartz review fundamental information that is necessary for implementing high-quality inclusive services for young children with and without developmental delays and for their families. In their chapter on partnerships with families, they concentrate on understanding families’ perspectives and families’ expectations for their children and the professionals who work with their children. In a second chapter, they discuss assessment, early identification, and development of children’s individualized programs through Individualized Education Programs for preschool and early elementary students with developmental difficulties and Individualized Family Service Plans for infants and toddlers with developmental delays. In a final chapter of the section, they discuss teachers’ preservice and inservice training needs that relate to promoting inclusive early childhood programs. Hence, in Section III they begin to address how to plan to provide inclusive services for young children with and without developmental difficulties and for their families.
Finally, in the eight chapters of Section IV (Implementing Inclusive Early Childhood Programs), Allen and Schwartz present strategies for working with young children with and without developmental delays in inclusive early childhood programs. In an important conceptual chapter, similar to those written by other early childhood special educators (e.g., Bailey & Wolery, 1992; Bricker, Pretti-Frontczak, & McComas, 1998; Noonan Sc McCormick, 1993; Utah State University, 1998), they recommend a developmental-behavioral approach to early childhood and early childhood special education. They follow their conceptual chapter with six chapters in which they present programmatic information concerning (a) arranging the early childhood environment to promote teaching and learning, (b) supporting young children’s social development, (c) promoting communication and language development, (d) fostering pre-academic learning, (e) teaching adaptive and independence skills, and (f) managing young children’s challenging behaviors. In addition, Sarah Hadden and Susan Fowler contribute a chapter on transition planning to support the inclusion of young children in early childhood programs. In Section IV, Allen and Schwartz, along with co-contributors Hadden and Fowler, provide essential programmatic information and describe validated approaches for practitioners who work with young children with and without developmental delays. Hence, in this section the authors move beyond simply recommending inclusive services and address the fundamental question of how best to implement high-quality inclusive services for young children with and without developmental difficulties and their families.
As a textbook, The Exceptional Child has several features that I find helpful for students and instructors. For example, each chapter includes specific objectives, key terms, suggested student activities, review questions, and references. In addition, the textbook has a glossary and four potentially helpful appendices that include (a) screening and assessment instruments, (b) a preschool developmental profile, (c) information on how to access training materials for teachers and parents of children with disabilities, and (d) on-line resources for teachers and parents. Two features useful to instructors include a well-designed instructor’s manual and a computerized test bank on CD ROM. The test bank is very user-friendly and allows instructors to customize tests. Specifically, the test bank has a number of options for assessment (e.g., multiple choice, identification, true/false, short answer, essay questions). In addition, the program allows instructors to create on-line tests for students when needed. At times, when I found a particular question or answer from the test bank ambiguous, the program allowed me to easily insert clarifying information. Moreover, instructors can add their own questions with relative ease.
In summary, I believe that The Exceptional Child is an excellent contemporary textbook for introductory early childhood and early childhood special education courses. The authors present essential information that should provide students with foundational knowledge that will be needed in more advanced early childhood education and early childhood special education methods and procedures courses. A significant strength of the textbook is Allen and Schwartz’s salient reminders to readers that effective teachers are both knowledgeable about child development and proactive in their efforts to promote children’s early childhood development. Moreover, the authors buttress their inclusion message with a range of intervention strategies and resources. I highly recommend that instructors review The Exceptional Child as a potential resource and textbook, particularly for introductory courses that are followed by methods and procedures courses compatible with a developmental-behavioral perspective. In addition, I find the textbook’s accompanying instructor’s materials and supports to be very user-friendly and helpful in preparing for class activities and assessment of student progress. Equally important with respect to social validity, my informal queries with students at several points during the introductory course indicated that they thought the textbook was very informative and easily read. Indeed, the vast majority of students reported that they planned to keep The Exceptional Child as a future professional reference. I commend Allen and Schwartz for providing early childhood and early childhood special educators with another excellent textbook and resource for professional development.
Bailey, D. M., & Wolery, M. (1992). Teaching infants and preschoolers with disabilities (2nd ed.). New York: Merrill.
Bricker, D., Pretti-Frontczak, K., & McComas, N. (1998). An activity-based approach to early intervention (2nd ed.). Baltimore: Brookes.
Noonan, M. J., & McCormick, L. (1993). Early intervention in natural environments: Methods and procedures. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/ Cole.
Utah State University. (1998). Strategies for preschool intervention in everyday settings: A video-assisted program for educators and families (SPIES). Available from the Center for Persons with Disabilities, Utah State University, 6800 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322-6800.
William H. Brown, PhD
Department of Educational Psychology
University of South Carolina
COPYRIGHT 2001 Pro-Ed
COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group