I began my “career” in early childhood when I was a little girl. Some of my earliest and fondest memories are of me playing school with my little sister and her friends in the basement of our house. I was always the teacher and, although we were pretending, I took my role very seriously! My formal education in early childhood began in high school where I took a course with formal instruction in early childhood curricula and child development and a field experience in a community preschool. I continued this line of study in college. As an undergraduate, I studied child development and worked at the Child Development Lab at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s campus. I worked in two different preschool classrooms and both included a child with special needs. I saw the impact this had on the children with special needs, their families, and the other children and staff. This experience was pivotal for me, as I soon realized high-quality inclusion was not just something interesting and innovative for families with enough resources to send their children with special needs to select programs. Inclusion and high-quality early childhood experiences were issues of social justice and education equity.
Soon after graduation, I began working as a teacher of children with autism in a large, urban public school system. For most of my students, this was their first school experience—at age 5 or 6. I realized this was too late; I wondered if a different trajectory might be possible with earlier identification and intervention. Also, despite my best efforts, I found my beliefs about and experiences with inclusion were not ubiquitous. Many students, particularly students with special needs from diverse backgrounds were not receiving an equitable education. I began taking courses towards a master’s degree in early childhood. However, I graduated with more questions than answers and quickly applied to PhD programs. I received my PhD in early childhood special education at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. At Vanderbilt I had the opportunity to learn from and work with many leaders in the field of early childhood special education (for whom I am eternally grateful) and began my research career.
Classes I teach at the University of Colorado Denver School of Education & Human Development:
- Screening and Assessment of Young Children ─ ECED 5200
- Early Intervention Strategies ─ ECED 6200
- Social and Cognitive Development and Disabilities ─ ECED 5070
My research interests:
- Play interventions for young children with autism
- Teachers’ implementation of intentional, systematic strategies in early childhood settings
- Caregiver implemented routines-based intervention with infants and toddlers
- Single subject research methodology
When I am not working, I enjoy running and hiking with my dogs, reading, and spending time with family and friends.
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