Like the first edition, the second edition of this Handbook of Early Childhood Intervention is designed to integrate the science, policy, and practice of early childhood intervention in order to serve as a comprehensive vehicle for communication across the many disciplines and perspectives that contribute to this complex and continually evolving field. Since the 1960s, we have witnessed the transformation of this arena from a modest collection of pilot projects with a primitive empirical foundation, precarious funding, and virtually no public mandate, to a multidimensional domain of theory, research, practice, and policy. Today, the world of early childhood intervention contains a growing knowledge base, a dynamic service enterprise, and a highly significant policy agenda.
Early childhood intervention is based on three underlying assumptions. The first is rooted in a set of fundamental principles of contemporary biological and psychological research – namely, that all organisms are designed to adapt to their environment and that behavior and developmental potential are neither predetermined at birth by fixed genetic factors nor immutably limited by a strict critical period beyond which change is impossible.
The second assumption is that the development of young children can only be fully appreciated and understood within a broad ecological context. Beginning with a core understanding of the family as a dynamic system, this perspective extends outwards to include the complex, interactive influences of the child's immediate community and the broader social, economic, and political environment in which he or she lives.