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If the earlier edition of the handbook represented the coming of age of the field of early childhood intervention, the presentation of this edition surely marks the beginning of its maturity. As developmental psychologists know well, each stage of development brings characteristic triumphs and challenges, with occasional setbacks and recurrences of the previous stage's struggles, not entirely abandoned as the young move forward into new stages along their growth trajectory. Our young field is no exception. A decade later, we are stronger, wiser, and capable of more complex tasks and deeper understanding than we were, yet old difficulties reassert themselves and continue to beset us, and there is still much to learn. Just as social expectations increase as the individual reaches maturity, the responsibilities of the field of early intervention have been accruing apace. We know more now; we have a great deal to do.
Throughout the 1990s, we have witnessed great breakthroughs in the field of brain development. Recent brain research has demonstrated with unprecedented certainty the importance of early experience in influencing the actual growth and development of neural pathways in the individual (Kotulak, 1996). During the years from 3 to 10, the brain is more densely “wired” than at any other time in the child's life. This means that there is literally a profusion of synapses connecting brain cells that are present in the growing child.
Eighteen new chapters have been added to the 2000 edition of this valuable Handbook, which serves as a core text for students and experienced professionals who are interested in the health and well being of young children. It serves as a comprehensive reference for graduate students, advanced trainees, service providers, and policy makers in such diverse fields as child care, early childhood education, child health, and early intervention programs for children with developmental disabilities and children in high risk environments. This book will be of interest to a broad range of disciplines including psychology, child development, early childhood education, social work, pediatrics, nursing, child psychiatry, physical and occupational therapy, speech and language pathology, and social policy. A scholarly overview of the underlying knowledge base and practice of early childhood intervention, it is unique in its balance between breadth and depth and its integration of the multiple dimensions of the field.