Effective Practices From the Field
Members of the SpecialQuest community are using their creativity to support inclusive practices in their programs, local communities, and states. Learn from their successes by clicking on the links below.
Creating a New SpecialQuest Community Team: How Cape Cod, Massachusetts Did It
Written and submitted by Trish Mengel
SpecialQuest Birth-Five is currently working with ten SpecialQuest State Leadership Teams. Twenty-one local Community Teams, often referred to as "graduate teams", are affiliated with the State Leadership Teams. The local teams were selected to participate because of their previous experience working with SpecialQuest and because of their interest and commitment to continuing the work in the current grant cycle. This is true with one exception - the twenty-first team - located in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. So . . . how did Cape Cod - never having participated in earlier SpecialQuest activities (and therefore not a true "graduate team") - become involved as the 21st SpecialQuest Community Team? Furthermore, what have been their "proud moments" and "causes to pause"? And finally, how can embryonic SpecialQuest communities, new to the materials and approach, learn from Cape Cod's experience?
Cape Cod is a long barrier island that stretches out into the Atlantic Ocean from southeastern Massachusetts, providing protection to much of the Commonwealth’s border. The two individuals responsible for initiating the SpecialQuest Community Team, Barbara Prindle-Eaton and Anne Scott, both work at Cape Cod Child Development (CCCD), the largest child care agency on the Cape. CCCD is the umbrella agency for a number of programs including Head Start, preschools, early intervention, teen pregnancy, parent support, and after school care. Barbara is the administrator for early intervention while Anne administers the child care program there.
Before applying to become a SpecialQuest State, Massachusetts had been selected to participate in a project called Expanding Opportunities (EO), which brought together cross sector state level teams to explore quality inclusive practices, policies, and procedures for young children birth through age five and their families. It was this team that prepared the proposal to become a SpecialQuest State. Two SpecialQuest graduate teams, based at the Head Start Programs in Fall River and Holyoke/Springfield/Chickopee were selected as the two “official” communities. When Massachusetts was chosen as one of the ten SpecialQuest states, EO team members became the core of the State Leadership Team. This core team was expanded to include more family and agency representation from across the Commonwealth with Barbara and Anne invited to represent Cape Cod and the Islands. Their true introduction to the SpecialQuest approach and materials was at the national SpecialQuest meeting in April 2008. When they returned home from Dallas, they decided to pull together a SpecialQuest team on the Cape.
Proud Moments and Causes to Pause
With encouragement and support from Pat Cameron, 619 Preschool Coordinator at the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC), who at that time was the SpecialQuest State Liaison, along with Evelyn Hausslein, the SpecialQuest Coach for the Holyoke team, and Trish Mengel, SpecialQuest’s State Coordinator for Massachusetts, Barbara and Anne began planning how to create a cross sector team in Cape Cod. One of their first causes to pause was how to define “community”. Should the community be the entire Cape with all 14 municipalities represented - including the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard? Or, should the team begin on a smaller, more manageable scale? Eventually, a decision was made to define “community” as the town of Barnstable with the hope of eventually extending the team to include the entire Cape and the Islands. Barbara and Anne successfully recruited team members from the public schools, early intervention, Head Start, child care, family child care, the Early Childhood Program at Cape Cod Community College, the Teen Pregnancy Program, Child Care Resource and Referral and Mass Family Network, a family support program. The team began meeting regularly.
Another early decision was to host meetings in neutral and rotating locations so that there would be a sense of ownership on the part of all agencies represented on the team. Meanwhile, SpecialQuest staff took note of their work and eventually were able to expand Evelyn’s contract so that she could facilitate SpecialQuest’s Community Perceptions of Inclusive Practices (CPIP) process, attend quarterly onsite meetings and provide ongoing support to the team leadership. SpecialQuest also gave the team a small stipend in recognition of their work.
An early team activity was to develop a focus and a vision for their work. Using the results and the discussion around the CPIP, the team decided on two major goals – cross sector, community-wide professional development and documentation of the roles and procedures surrounding inclusion in the community.
Another example of the intentionality that characterized their planning was to include the SpecialQuest approach and at least one session from the SpecialQuest Multimedia Training Library (SQMTL) at each community meeting. In this way, the entire team became a SpecialQuest learning community, experiencing the materials and approach together while at the same time learning from one another and growing as a team.
Meanwhile, Debra Murphy, team member from Cape Cod Community College was working with colleagues to incorporate SpecialQuest into existing college courses. The faculty began by each studying one of the SpecialQuest volumes and by selecting one course each semester to introduce SpecialQuest material. SpecialQuest content is now embedded into all of their early childhood courses. The response of the students has been extremely positive. Debra has documented how the addition of SpecialQuest content enhances the curriculum and also supports all five of the NAEYC requirement areas. Barbara and Anne are particularly excited about the long term positive effect that broadening the early childhood curriculum will have on the Cape. Barbara shared, “We may not see the results immediately, but in the long run, this is where the huge impact will happen. Teachers are being trained from the beginning to understand that the places where they will work will be inclusive.”
Major team accomplishments have included two parent/provider professional development events in the spring of 2009 and 2010. The first event was called, “Listening to Parents and Communicating with Providers” in which the videos, Family Voices and Aracelly and Elizabeth were used. The targeted audience included staff from special education, early intervention, preschool and childcare, family childcare providers and the families that these providers serve. The second event was titled, “Early Childhood Transitions” and featured the SpecialQuest video and guided viewing activity, Transition at Age Three. At both capacity-filled events, SpecialQuest team members shared the responsibility of sponsoring a community-wide training by pitching in for space, food, childcare, registration, etc.
Providing credit for participation in such cross-sector events has been a challenge, not just in Massachusetts, but across the country. Each system has its own requirements and names for their credentialing system. Cape Cod, along with the Fall River and Holyoke communities have been working on this and informing the State Leadership Team of the challenges and successes that they encounter at the local level. Meanwhile, state agency personnel, under the leadership of Pam Roux of the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) who is also the SpecialQuest State Liaison, are working to smooth the process at the state level. (Stay tuned!)
Cape Cod now has a committee in place that is planning an in-depth professional development series that will provide up to 1.0 CEU to participants. They will offer four sessions covering the topics Including Preschoolers with Disabilities, Building Relationships with Families, Collaboration and Teaming, and IFSPs and IEPs: Service Models and Plans. Each session will have at least two presenters, one of whom will be a parent. The sessions will be offered on Saturdays and on weekday evenings in order to accommodate the schedules of busy families and professionals.
In late May the team had their last “official” meeting with Coach Evelyn Hausslein who facilitated the completion of the final CPIP. They are pleased to report that they have made great strides in accomplishing their ambitious goals over the two year period that the team has been in place. Their future work plan is equally ambitious. They were recently awarded a foundation grant that will help them carry this work forward. They plan to focus on (1) continuing to expand the network to include the entire Cape Cod and Islands community, (2) sustaining the Quest through their network and shared professional development, (3) identifying strategies to support recruitment of children with disabilities, and (4) continuing to strive to have consistent participation of parents and public school staff.
Messages for New SpecialQuest Community Teams
What can fledgling SpecialQuest communities learn from the Cape Cod experience?
- Communities do not need to have prior experience with SpecialQuest in order to create a successful team. By creating a learning community and intentionally using sessions from the SpecialQuest Multimedia Training Library at meetings, the Cape Cod team has demonstrated a deep understanding of both the approach and materials.
- Define the extent of your “SpecialQuest Community” early in the process. While wishing to have an impact on the entire Cape and the Islands, the team decided to begin their work with a smaller, more manageable community.
- Share the work. Anne and Barbara are an amazing team, both with strong backgrounds. By modeling shared leadership, other team members also stepped forward to take responsibility for various pieces of the work. Hosting meetings in “neutral” locations signaled that this was a community-wide effort, not solely that of one agency.
- Clearly articulate a focus for the team’s work. Once Cape Cod decided to make professional development their main goal, a doable, effective plan emerged that they were able to successfully accomplish.
- Be flexible. Cape Cod polled team members to find out which days of the week and times worked best for meetings and events, then planned with these various needs in mind.
- Collaborate with other SpecialQuest Community Teams and the State Leadership Team. Cape Cod benefitted from the experiences of both Fall River and Holyoke. They saw “bright spots” in their work and replicated many of the forms and procedures that were already in place in these communities.
Cape Cod Has Much to Celebrate!
Congratulations from the entire SpecialQuest family for the important work that you have accomplished and best wishes for the work still to be done! The children and families of Cape Cod are fortunate to have such strong advocates as Barbara and Anne working for quality inclusion in their community. You are an inspiration to others who desire to bring quality inclusive practices to their communities with the support of the SpecialQuest approach and materials!
Trish Mengel, M.Ed., recently retired from the FPG Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is currently working as a consultant and staff member with SpecialQuest.
For more information about Cape Cod's SpecialQuest Community Team, please contact Anne Scott, firstname.lastname@example.org, Director of Child Care Programs for Cape Cod Child Development. Anne's lifelong interest in and service to children with special needs is because she was raised with a sister who had significant medical issues as well as Down Syndrome.
You may also contact Barbara Prindle-Eaton at email@example.com for more information. Barbara Prindle-Eaton began her career as an Occupational Therapist working in an integrated pre-school. For the past 34 years, she has worked in Cape Cod Child Development’s Early Intervention Program for Cape Cod and the Islands, with over 32 years of that time as the Program Director.
Learning to Dance Together: What We Learned from the Shoshone and Arapaho Head Start CommunityWritten and submitted by Evelyn Klimpel and Lou Landry
Evelyn Klimpel and Lou Landry provided training and consultation to the Shoshone and Arapaho Head Start 0-5 Program as part of the Wyoming State Leadership Team's strategy. The Shoshone and Arapaho Head Start is a SpecialQuest graduate community program.
The consultation was designed to further the work of the State Leadership Team in the following areas:
- Increasing public awareness about inclusion
- Using the SpecialQuest approach and materials in local, regional, and state training and technical assistance activities
Specifically, the consultation and training was designed to engage the local community in the planning and implementation of two training events, which would be culturally appropriate and responsive to local needs. Denise Aragon (Assistant Director) and Judy Tidzump (Staff) from the Shoshone and Arapaho Head Start, were vital in voicing the local perspective and guiding the effort to meet local needs.
Both consultants have extensive experience working in and with Native American communities and have had extensive experience with the SpecialQuest materials and approach. They were eager to see how they could,with the guidance from Denise and Judy, design and implement an event to engage the local community. It was decided early on that the first day of the event would have a family/parent focus and the second day of the event would focus on staff of the Shosone and Arapaho Head Start.
10 Effective Practices for Working with Native American Groups
- Relationship-based consulting
- Personal invitations
- Cultural markers
- Materials Selection
- Unhurried agendas
- Gift giving and host/guest courtesy
A foundation was built on relationship-based professional development and training. SpecialQuest uses a relationship-based, adult learning philosophy. The success of this event can be traced to actualizing this philosophy and building enduring relationships. As a Native American, Evelyn’s appreciation of relationship-based consulting is that extensive time must be taken to lay the foundation for a successful consultation, especially in Native American communities. Early on in working with the Wyoming State Leadership Team, Evelyn and Denise began building a professional relationship. Using the many hours involved in the long distance drive from Cheyenne to the Wind River Reservation for a meeting, Evelyn and Denise spent time getting to know one another in a social context — one where stories of family and culture could be exchanged. On the long drive, Denise would pick her favorite spots for meals and share that experience with Evelyn, and in so doing they began the process of "sharing a world." What might seem small and inconsequential is very important when working with cultures that are intensely relationship-based. A relationship of trust, respect, and affection can be built, but it will take time. Luckily, Evelyn had the opportunity to so engage.
We had considerable time to plan the event and talk about it extensively. We learned to be patient in the planning process.
We went to the reservation to plan the event. Throughout we committed ourselves to a training event that would be adapted to fit the community and to assurances that it would not be a "canned" training event. The training was on the reservation. This familiarity of place and reduction of travel time and expenses for the participants was important.
Denise extended personal invitations to parent and family members. This personal touch was critical. In addition to the customary means of advertising events, a lesson learned is that personal invitations are probably the most effective.
Right away we agreed that the event would clearly embrace the local community’s cultural ways. We would open the event with a welcome from the Tribal Chairperson of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe; an elder would say a blessing; and a drum group would provide energy and inspiration.
We began with Evelyn’s story of her family's journey with disability before we transitioned to the SpecialQuest material. Since Evelyn has an ongoing relationship with the Head Start program, her family story, as told in person, was a key for establishing rapport with the family members attending the event. Our design was based on making the event as personal as possible, which would best served by starting with Evelyn's voice rather than a video presentation. Likewise, Judy shared and modeled how family members in the local community can speak from their experience. We believe that this approach contributed to setting the stage for the considerable amount of personal sharing that occurred throughout the event.
Christopher's Story was chosen as the central teaching tool of our presentation since the video is an inclusion story of a Native American family and their child with a disability. The images and culturally relevant context carried a powerful message and was well received. Besides Christopher's Story, we included the Marvin and Jack video to highlight individuals with disabilities speaking for themselves.
Don't pack the agenda. SpecialQuest has a big vision and deep commitment to inclusion. Oftentimes SpecialQuest events are packed with information and activities to reinforce the learning process. We specifically chose a format that would not be densely packed with information and kept a tight focus.
Evelyn noted the importance of acknowledging the host/guest roles in staging events, particularly when we are inviting parents and family members to our events. The custom of giving gifts to guests is an important Native American custom. It is also important to recognize the sacrifice that family members make to attend training events. For many, the long distance travel to the event is a major expense in an already tight budget. We had a small door prize gift for all who attended. Compensation for travel and child care arrangements was important. During tough economic times, event planners working with tight budgets will have difficulties finding money in the budget for gift recognition, as well as gas money and childcare for families attending. These are essential items and worthy of creative approaches to meet these needs.
SpecialQuest materials are professionally produced and might appear "too slick" to some on first contact with the materials. It was definitely our intent through the training event to inform the attendees about the wide variety of SpecialQuest materials and their ease of use in a variety of contexts. And we did this by demonstrating the materials and showing the videos with their powerful messages of inclusion, empowerment, and family leadership. But we worked very hard to ensure an atmosphere of informality. We endeavored not to have the materials and message seem off putting and intimidating. Primarily we did this by loading the front end of the agenda with personal stories and with our integration of local voices and customs. The Tribal Chairman welcomed the attendees and introduced the elder, who gave the blessing for the event set the event in the local context. Drumming gave us energy, and then personal stories reaffirmed that we were just people joining together on the quest.
What are you doing?
If you’d like your work to be considered for this page, submit a link to your information to firstname.lastname@example.org. We are looking for effective “real life” practices that have:
- An element of story that provides context for the practice
- Detailed steps or a clear progression of activities
- Specific resources that support the effective practice
The effective practices should be generalizable to other contexts.