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Surviving the 2020 Pandemic: Lessons Learned on How to Best Support Out EI/ECSE Communities

Surviving the 2020 Pandemic: Lessons Learned on How to Best Support Out EI/ECSE Communities

About this Session:

The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated a need for early childhood professionals to have a plan for continued service delivery in the context of a disaster or hazard. In this panel discussion three Early Intervention (EI) and Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) experts, with significant experience working with children and families and as professional development leaders, discuss what the COVID-19 pandemic has taught them as EI/ECSE leaders and how those lessons can inform preparations for future disasters or hazards.

This discussion addresses systemic changes that can be made to prepare EI/ECSE systems to be immediately responsive to the needs of professionals, families, and young children served during and following a disaster or hazard. Ways in which EI/ECSE practitioners and Extension educators can prepare to provide crucial support to young children with disabilities and their military families in times of disasters or hazards also are shared.

Through this session, participants will:

  • Connect the ways in which the experiences of the panelists during the first weeks and months of the COVID-19 pandemic can help other systems prepare for future disasters or hazards.
  • Recognize systemic changes needed within their organizations to immediately meet the needs of all stakeholders during and following a disaster or hazard.
  • Identify how EI/ECSE practitioners can continue to provide support to young children with disabilities and their military families during disasters or hazards.

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Dana Childress, Ph.D. – During her career of more than two decades, Dr. Childress has worked as an early childhood special educator, service coordinator, program supervisor, local system manager, and trainer. Currently, Dr. Childress is the Early Intervention Professional Development Consultant for the Partnership for People with Disabilities at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is also the co-author of Family-Centered Early Intervention: Supporting Infants and Toddlers in Natural Environments.

Susan Connor, Ed.M. directs the Early Intervention Training Program (EITP) at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign. As Director, Susan ensures high-quality, evidence-based professional development opportunities and resources are available to early interventionists in the field. In her role, she leads a team of committed, dedicated early intervention professional development specialists in developing curriculum, facilitating professional development activities, and collecting and analyzing data related to the quality and effectiveness of professional development activities and early intervention supports and services in Illinois. Susan partners with the Lead Agency to respond to the needs of the larger system and leads collaborative initiatives with a variety of stakeholder groups including early intervention, education, child welfare, child care, home visiting, and advocacy partners to meet the needs of local areas of the state and represent EITP on state and national planning committees and workgroups.

Peggy Kemp, Ph.D. – As Executive Director of the Division for Early Childhood (DEC), Dr. Peggy Kemp guides DEC’s strategic direction and oversees daily operations. She has worked in early childhood and early intervention fields for over thirty years at the local, state, and national levels. During this time, she has served on various Kansas leadership teams committed to enhancing early intervention and early childhood programs statewide. At the beginning of her career, Dr. Kemp worked within the military childcare system in various roles including teacher, education specialist, assistant director, and center director.


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The connection information will be emailed to you once you register.

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This technology is supported in part by New Technologies for Ag Extension (funding opportunity no. USDA-NIFA-OP-010186), grant no. 2023-41595-41325 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Extension Foundation. For more information, please visit You can view the terms of useat

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