Voices From the Field: Interview with Kirsten Bilderaya

A Preschool Teacher’s Perspective on the New School Year

Kirsten Bilderaya

Kirsten Bilderaya is an early childhood special education (ECSE) specialist. She works as an itinerant ECSE specialist for Adams 12 school district in Colorado at Tarver elementary school. She specializes in autism and works with two Learning Experiences—Alternative Programming for Preschoolers and Parents, for young children with Autism (LEAP) certified classrooms. In addition to working with children and teachers, she has taught parent classes for families with young children with autism, and supervises ECSE graduate students from University of Denver, and University of Colorado Denver.


ED: How did you begin your career in early childhood?

I began as a classified Early Childhood Education (ECE) Group Leader in an inclusive ECE classroom. Students in the ECE program included those who had individualized education programs (IEP)s, or who had high developmental risk factors, such as adverse childhood experiences, poverty, family separation, or English as a second language. After the fall semester, I decided this was the career I wanted to pursue and started the Master’s program in Early Childhood Education at the University of Colorado Denver. When I completed the program, I became a licensed early childhood special educator.

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Voices From the Field: Interview with Mona Qafisheh

Power to the Early Childhood Education Profession

Mona Qafisheh

Mona serves as the director of grants and contracts with the Association for Supportive Child Care which provides early childhood coaching, assessment, and professional development to early childhood professionals, and education for family, friends, and neighbor caregivers and families. Mona’s role includes supporting the organization through the granting lifecycle from identification of potential funding through reporting. Mona also serves as the president-elect for the Arizona Association for the Education of Young Children.


ED: How did you begin your career in early childhood education?

My career in early childhood education began like many others’ have. When I was 19, I needed a job and the only place that would hire me was a child care center. I worked as a camp counselor for 9 and 10-year olds through high school and figured working with toddlers would be a piece of cake. Spoiler alert: working with toddlers isn’t a piece of cake! But it was the most rewarding job I’ve ever had and inspired my love for young children and began my now almost 20-year commitment to them and their families. Also, like many of my peers in early childhood I began my career with a few college credits and was barely able to make ends meet financially. Those early teaching years have made me an advocate for high quality infant and toddler care, livable wages, and accessible, affordable higher education for early childhood educators who are often non-traditional students.

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Voices From the Field: Interview with Justin Brown

A Father’s Engagement

Justin Brown

Justin Brown is an adoptive father of a 4-year-old boy, and a foster father to two 2-year-old boys. He works as a youth minister for St. Agnes Parish in Dalton, MA and is the co-director of Camp Holy Cross in Goshen, MA. Justin first became involved in early intervention when his 4-year-old was referred for services at 18-months-old. He has become a strong advocate for the strengths and needs of his children and enjoys wrestling, cooking, and going for walks with them.

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OSEP Releases Fast Facts: Infants and Toddlers With Disabilities

Header: OSEP Office of Special Education Programs. Title: OSEP Fast Facts: Infants and Toddlers With Disabilities. Body: Percent of percent of the population, ages birth through 2, served under IDEA, Part C in the United States: 2018-19. Image shows U.S. map. Separate text box reads: The percent of the population, receiving early intervention services under IDEA, Part C, for the United States and Outlying Areas is 3.48%. Source: U.S. Department of Education, EDFacts Metadata and Process System (EMAPS): "IDEA Part C Child Count and Settings," 2018-19. https://go.usa.gov/xd6j9. These data are a snapshot count collected by states in the fall of the identified year. U.S. Bureau of the Census. "2018 State Population Estimates by Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin". Data accessed July 2019 from http://www.census.gov/popest

By the Office of Special Education Program

In 2018–2019, 409,315 Infants and toddlers, birth through age 2, with disabilities and their families received early intervention services under IDEA Part C.

Our new Fast Fact: Infants and Toddlers With Disabilities takes a closer look at what our 618 data tells us about this population. For this Fast Fact, we present data from the data collections authorized under IDEA Section 618 on Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities who receive early intervention services under IDEA Part C. Data presented includes that collected through child count, settings, and exiting data collections.

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Voices From the Field: Interview with Linda Gilkerson and Pamela Epley

Promoting Children’s Mental Health Awareness

Linda Gilkerson and Pamela Epley

Linda Gilkerson and Pamela Epley

Linda Gilkerson, Ph.D., LSW, is a professor at Erikson Institute where she directs the graduate training programs in infancy and infant mental health.

Pamela Epley, Ph.D., is an associate clinical professor and director of special education at Erikson Institute.


ED: We are celebrating Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day in May. Could you tell us what efforts you have been involved in to improve the quality of early childhood programs and services to better address young children’s mental health?

Infant and early childhood mental health (IECMH) is synonymous with healthy social-emotional (SE) development and robust early learning, including the ability to regulate and express emotions; form close personal relationships; and explore the environment and learn in the context of family, community, and culture. Over the past years, we have worked with Illinois’ Early Intervention (EI) system to increase its focus on children’s SE development. We’ve done this by promoting relationship-based services, more systematic screening of SE development, and the addition of SE Consultants.

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Voices From the Field: Interview with Diana Capobianco

Diana Capobianco

Diana Capobianco is a private practice pediatric dentist, Executive Board Maryland Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and Liaison to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Maryland Chapter of AAP. Her career as a pediatric dentist includes working with infants, children, teens and individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism. Diana holds several positions in local county offices of the Maryland Department of Health and serves on the AAP Dentistry national education committee.


ED: How did you begin your work in early childhood?

My desire to work with kids goes way back to my own youth. I always enjoyed being around kids, baby-sitting and tutoring, assisting with kids at after-school play time, that sort of thing, but I also wanted to work in healthcare helping others. A career in pediatric dentistry was a natural melding of those pursuits.

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Voices From the Field: Interview with Grace Wardhana

Developing Executive Functioning Skills through Games

Grace Wardhana

Grace is co-founder of Kiko Labs, an educational company creating learning games based on principles of neuroscience. She has been the principal investigator on two small business innovation research (SBIR) grants funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) in the U.S. Department of Education and another grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Prior to founding Kiko Labs, Grace spent 15 years in product roles in the technology industry, including a stint at Microsoft. Grace holds an AB in Economics and MS in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford and received an MBA from Harvard Business School. Her research interests include game-based learning and assessment as well as technology-infused learning applied to all facets of school readiness. 

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Voices From the Field: Interview with Yetta Myrick

The Power of Parental Engagement

Yetta Myrick

Ms. Yetta Myrick is the mother of a teenage son with special needs. She is the founder and president of DC Autism Parents (DCAP), a non-profit organization. At DCPA, Yetta has created programs for children diagnosed with autism and their families and oversees the daily operations of the organization. Yetta serves as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Act Early Ambassador to D.C. In this role, she promotes developmental monitoring and assists families in getting the help they need to access services for their children.

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Voices From the Field: Interview with Karen Nemeth

Supporting Dual Language Learners

Karen Nemeth

Karen Nemeth, Ed.M. is Senior Training and Technical Assistance Specialist -Dual Language Learners for the National Center on Early Childhood Development, Teaching, and Learning. She has published more than a dozen books on early education for children who are growing up with two or more languages and she has held leadership roles in organizations such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE), and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) International Association .

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My Ever-Evolving Journey: Mom, Advocate, Board of Education Member

Note: October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month

Dria, Mom and Sister

by Dria Law, Moorestown, N.J.


I am the mom of two teenaged girls, one of whom has a disability.

My youngest daughter, Julianna, or Juls for short, was born with Down syndrome, and like many parents of a child with a disability, I found myself thrust into a whole new world. This world revolved around early intervention services, medical appointments, and learning as much as I possibly could about Down syndrome. I was discovering early-on that not only would I need to be Jul’s parent, but also her advocate.

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