Indiana’s First Steps Early Intervention System: Contributions to the well-being of infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families

Director: Susan Kontos, PhD, professor, Department of Child Development and Family Studies

Co-Director: Karen Diamond, PhD, associate professor, Department of Child Development and Family Studies

Staff: Janet Wagner, project coordinator
Jianhong Wang, research assistant
Amanda Wilcox-Herzog, research assistant

Funding: Bureau of Child Development, Family and Social Services Administration, July 1995-September 1999, $200,000

Description: The purpose of this project was to evaluate the ways in which First Steps was meeting the needs of Indiana’s infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families. Data collection was completed in February 1999, and the project officially ended in September 1999. A technical report of the evaluation outcomes and an executive summary were released in August 1999.

Data from families and service providers were collected for 207 children and families. These data provided information about the impact of First Steps services on the lives of children and their families. Data were also collected a second time from 66 of these families. These data provided information about the ways in which children’s development, families’ needs, and early intervention services changed over the course of a year in a child’s life. The evaluation’s results are summarized below.

What impact have early intervention services had on child and family well-being? Family well-being was greater when the child with a disability was more manageable, there were fewer children in the family, and when there were fewer community risk factors. Family well-being was also greater when early intervention services were higher in quality and more family centered. Child well-being was greater when children had fewer developmental problems and when they were experiencing higher-quality services.

What factors were associated with children’s and families’ participation in natural environments? The type of disability and parental education were not factors influencing whether a child participated in natural environments. Parental awareness of natural environments as a choice was crucial, however, especially for families who wanted their child to participate in community-based early childhood programs.

What concerns did families express and how well did services meet their needs? Most families (almost two-thirds) expressed no concerns. When concerns were expressed, lack of information, especially not being made aware of all options, was the concern mentioned most frequently.