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The Universal Online Part C EI Curriculum—What it is and how you can use it!

Adult woman having video chat online on laptop with her granddaughter at home during quarantine isolation pandemic. Senior lifestyle. Teacher giving online lesson to student from home.

There are a number of ways to use the components of the Universal Online Part C EI Curriculum to enhance your skills as an early interventionist or early childhood educator, or to prepare early interventionists to provide quality services.

by Sarah Nichols, Professional Development Specialist, Early Intervention Training Program at the University of Illinois; Cori Hill, Early Intervention Professional Development Specialist, Partnership for People with Disabilities at Virginia Commonwealth University; Rachel Moyer-Trimyer, Instructor, University of Texas at Austin; Lynda Pletcher, Private Consultant; and Naomi Younggren, Department of Defense Educational and Developmental Intervention Services (EDIS), Part C/CSPD Coordinator

Although still in its infancy, the field of early intervention (EI) continues to develop and expand. One landmark initiative in EI was the development of the Agreed Upon Mission and Key Principles for Providing Early Intervention Services in Natural Environments in 2008. These materials created a consensus of multiple evidence-based practices for implementing effective, family-centered early intervention under Part C of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Embedded in these practices is the priority that early interventionists must hone their practices by “updating knowledge, skills and strategies by keeping abreast of research.”

The 2014 Division for Early Childhood (DEC) Recommended Practices further bridge the research to practice gap related to professional development. The Leadership practices identify the importance of developing and implementing “an evidence-based professional development system or approach that provides practitioners a variety of supports to ensure they have the knowledge and skills needed to implement the DEC Recommended Practices.” The Teaming and Collaboration practices also specify that effective teams, including practitioners and families, “work together as a team to systematically and regularly exchange expertise, knowledge, and information to build team capacity and jointly solve problems, plan, and implement interventions.”

In response to the need for consistent and coordinated EI professional development, the Universal Online Part C EI Curriculum workgroup formed from the Early Intervention-Early Childhood Professional Development Community of Practice. Workgroup members have extensive experience developing and delivering EI professional development. They have worked collaboratively across states and programs to develop a no-cost, open access, online universal core curriculum of quality EI practices. In recent years, the workgroup has collaborated with a variety of states, programs, and professional organizations to evaluate the use and impact of this curriculum.

The Universal Online Part C EI Curriculum currently includes (a) The Mission and Key Principles of Part C Early Intervention and (b) The Foundational Pillars of Early Intervention. The Foundational Pillars module includes five lessons: Family Centered Practices, Child Development, Natural Learning Environments, Adult Learning Principles, and Quality Teaming. A third module titled Authentic Assessment in Early Intervention is currently in development.

Each curriculum includes an interactive online module and a facilitator’s guide that contains extended learning opportunities, tools to measure the use of effective practices, and additional resources that make it possible for states or programs to customize materials to meet their unique needs. The curriculum is being used across the nation and the globe in the following ways:


  • preservice activities to meet licensure requirements in various disciplines such as early childhood education, early childhood special education, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech language pathology;
  • state and local program professional development initiatives to promote understanding and implementation of quality EI practices;
  • tools to support reflective supervision and coaching;
  • pre-requisite requirements for credential/certification within state systems; and
  • mechanisms to support State Systemic Improvement Planning activities.

Participants who have completed the online modules report they have increased their ability to support families and they have gained knowledge and skills to effectively implement EI evidence-based practices. In addition, participants have said the following about the online modules:

  • “This training will benefit my families tremendously as I immediately implement changes to better represent the seven principles of EI.”
  • “I think new graduates and therapists new to EI will be much more effective with access to this training.”

So how might these resources help you?

There are a number of ways to use the components of the Universal Online Part C EI Curriculum to enhance your skills as an early interventionist or early childhood educator, or to prepare early interventionists to provide quality services. If you are an administrator, faculty member, trainer, professional development specialist, program supervisor, or technical assistance provider, you may explore the materials to see how they can support or augment the initiatives you currently have to prepare and support new, existing, or even soon-to-be early interventionists. You may find the extended learning opportunities and check for understanding questions, located in the facilitator’s guides, are great tools to support individuals after they complete the online modules with continued learning opportunities.

If you are an early interventionist, the curriculum provides opportunity for self-paced, “just in time” study with resources that align with the DEC Recommended Practices and other evidence-based practices. These tools can be also be used to share with team members to collaborate on service implementation.

The Universal Online Part C EI Curriculum includes FREE, accessible resources to enhance the capacity of providers. Whether for personal skill strengthening or for training purposes, the curriculum expands the knowledge and abilities of early interventionists to collaborate with families to deliver high-quality intervention.

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