Training Early Intervention Assistants in California's Community Colleges

Primary Researchers: Diane Hammon Kellegrew, Jean Pacifico-Banta, Kari Becker Stewart

Publication Date: September 2008

Over the past decade, early intervention staffing strategies across the country began to change in response to the federal policy detailed in Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). It emphasized serving infants and toddlers with special needs in more "natural environments" that incorporate the family's usual routines and settings when possible.

The shift has had a dramatic impact on the necessary skills and scope of duties of those who care for these young children with special needs. Providing services in home and community settings not only requires a highly skilled workforce but also necessitates that one work more independently.

While federal policy provides some guidance on the role of BA-prepared professionals or early interventionists who serve these special needs children, the rules are less specific about paraprofessionals and early intervention assistants who also work in the system. This study examines California's efforts to foster preservice preparation of early intervention assistants for infants and toddlers with special needs through the Community College Personnel Preparation Project (CCPPP), a certificate program started in 1998 and offered by participating community colleges.

The study also provides an overview of data on the evolving national picture and the Western Region states. At the time of this study, California was the only Western Region state addressing recruitment into the early intervention field at the Associate of Arts (AA) level through articulation agreements between community colleges and BA- and MA-granting institutions with related majors. 

Research Questions

The study explored four research questions:

  • What is the CCPPP, and how does it work?
  • How did community colleges seeking to award a Chancellor's Certificate for Early Intervention Assistants implement the CCPPP? In particular, how did they develop faculty, coursework, field experiences, and an advisory board?
  • How did the CCPPP implementation differ for colleges that completed all requirements to award the Chancellor's Certificate and for those that completed only the requirements for a college-level certificate or that dropped out of the project?
  • What challenges and response strategies did community colleges report in implementing the Chancellor's Certificate for Early Intervention Assistants?


The study examined data from the project's inception in 1998 through 2006. Forty community colleges participated during this time, representing 37 percent of the state's community colleges. Data were gathered from the quarterly reports required of the participating colleges, faculty mentor monthly reports, and administrative annual reports. More than 2,000 documents were included in the quantitative and qualitative analysis.

Key Findings or Outcomes

The CCPPP clarified the role of early intervention personnel and included practice competencies for different levels of personnel, as well as a career ladder option. The study finds that colleges could develop preservice training programs for early intervention assistants that meet requirements such as those for awarding a Chancellor's Certificate, although not all participating colleges were successful, despite receiving state funding for start-up expenses.

The colleges participating in CCPPP that met all requirements for the Chancellor's Certificate were more likely to have

  • early intervention field experiences,
  • a faculty liaison with an early intervention background,
  • early intervention-specific training venues,
  • services for infants and toddlers with disabilities in on-campus child care, and
  • program advisory committee members with an early intervention background.
  • Published: September 2008
  • Research Type: Issues & Answers
  • Methodologies: Descriptive
  • Contact info:
    Virginia Reynolds 916.492.4017

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