You may have heard that your child’s program should be based on “peer reviewed research.” But, what does that mean?
Peer-reviewed research is when research is reviewed by respected colleagues in a specific field (their “peers”), before it is considered acceptable to publish. If the method or research has been peer-reviewed and was published, then it is much more likely to be of high quality and reliable. The process of going through peer-review lends validation to published work – it makes it more believable and credible. It is considered solid and effective.
How can peer-reviewed research help your child?
If you use a therapy that has already been tried, tested, and proven successful, it is more likely to help your child. By using peer-reviewed research as the basis for your child’s therapy or intervention, it increases the chances that your child will improve. For example, if your child has a specific diagnosis of dyslexia, using a reading program proven to help children with dyslexia would be appropriate for your child. Why use another program if one exists that is validated through peer-reviewed research? In other words, why spend time using an untested instructional method when a tried and true method is available? It just makes sense. It also is the law.
Do peer-reviewed methods always HAVE to be used? What does the law say?
If you have a baby, toddler or child with a delay or disability, IDEA (the law that governs early intervention and special education services) says that the services your child receives should be based on peer-reviewed research whenever possible. In fact, the language used in the law is “to the extent practicable.” This will ensure that your child receives a method of service or therapy that is appropriate for her. Of course, there will be times when it is not practicable to use a particular method, for various reasons, but if it is possible, it should be used. Here is what the law actually says…
• For infants up to age 3, IDEA says: “The individualized family service plan (IFSP) shall be in writing and contain a statement of specific early intervention services based on peer-reviewed research, to the extent practicable, necessary to meet the unique needs of the infant or toddler and the family, including the frequency, intensity, and method of delivering services.”
• For children ages 3 – 21, IDEA says: “A statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services, based on peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable, to be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child, and a statement of the program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided to enable the child.”
Peer-reviewed research is a win-win for the child, parents and schools
Wrightslaw has a discussion on why peer-reviewed research is a win-win for both child and school system. They say that in 2004, when IDEA was re-authorized, “Congress clarified that IEPs must include research-based methodology. Including methodology in the child’s IEP will benefit the child’s parents and teachers. As participants in developing their child’s IEP, parents will benefit by having input into the instructional methods used to teach their children. The teachers who implement the IEP will benefit by having guidance from a team of professionals who are familiar with the child and who have reviewed the research to determine the interventions and instructional methods that are most likely to provide the child with educational benefit…This is a win, win situation for all – especially for children who will benefit when they receive effective instruction from teachers who are trained in research-based instructional methods.”
Before you and your IFSP or IEP team decide on the services that your child will receive, (parents are equal partners of the team), see if it is possible to use an instructional method based on peer-reviewed research. Hopefully, the method will be appropriate and meet your child’s unique needs.
Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Go to News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” in the Categories menu on the right side, to view all of the blog posts to date. As always, we welcome your comments and input.
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