Dr. Oksana Hagerty
Dr. Oksana Hagerty is an educational and development psychologist who serves as a learning specialist at Beacon College in Leesburg, Fla., the first accredited higher education institution to award bachelor’s degrees exclusively to students with learning disability, ADHD and other learning differences. She specializes in academic support, cognitive abilities, learning disability interventions, and educational and developmental psychology.
Early Intervention in Child Education Programs
When framing the significance of early childhood education programs, it is important to view the subject from a somewhat unusual point of view — that of a college educator. I serve as a learning specialist at Beacon College, the first college in the U.S. accredited to award bachelor’s degrees exclusively to students with learning disabilities, ADHD, and other learning differences.
As an admissions requirement, our students possess a diagnosed specific learning disability (SLD), ADHD, or other learning difference. Sometimes, though, the observable interference of the diagnosed learning difference with the student’s functioning is so minimal that you almost question whether the initial diagnosis was correct.
My “aha” moment came when I realized — after talking to these students and reading through their educational histories,— that many of them received a successful intervention before college. This conclusion contains two key concepts: “intervention” and “the time of intervention.”
Modern educational psychology wields quite a range of methods of effective instruction (including interventions to remediate SLD, ADHD, and other learning differences), and I am sure most parents reading this text can name several off the top of their heads. However, no intervention is a one-age-fits-all measure.
Why is the Early Intervention is so important?
Let’s consider, for example, offering speech therapy to a six-year-old who has never been exposed to the human language; no matter how hard you try, the effect for the child will be limited to the sensitive period for language acquisition closes at five years of age. Along the same lines, the development of an individual’s musical ability depends on the quality and quantity of music exposure by mid-childhood. Similarly, pronunciation in a second language will never be native-like if one is not exposed to the target language before her or his teenage years, etc.
These examples illustrate the concept of “developmental growth curves,” which are also evident in the maturation of the cognitive abilities responsible for learning to read, write, and do the math. Hence, access to the appropriate interventions (environmental stimuli) at the right “developmental” moment — especially for children with special learning differences — can be consequential as their lives and schooling unfold. The same applies to the factors that may make a child unavailable for learning: ASD emerges at 2-3 years of age, and ADHD around the age of seven.
As neurodevelopmental conditions, these distinct diagnoses are best confronted within the context of a certain developmental arc, that is, relevant to the child’s developmental milestones — the majority of which are constellated around childhood, especially early childhood.