Baylor Researcher Earns $493,000 Grant to Improve Behavior Outcomes for Children with Developmental Disabilities
Department of Education grant will fund study of evidence-based behavioral intervention training for early childhood professionals
By Derek Smith, Baylor University Marketing & Communications
WACO, Texas (March 4, 2021) – Stephanie Gerow, Ph.D., assistant professor of educational psychology in the Baylor University School of Education, has earned a coveted grant from the U.S. Department of Education to fund research that will provide early childhood professionals with behavioral intervention training for children with developmental disabilities.
The award—an Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Early Career Development and Mentoring Award from the U.S. Department of Education—provides $493,412 in research funding and is the first of its kind awarded to a Baylor faculty member.
“What we find is that kids with developmental disabilities are more likely to engage in problem behavior, and those kids are at a higher risk for having lifelong difficulties without interventions that can improve those problem behaviors,” Gerow said. “For the community agencies that provide important services to children with developmental disabilities, there has been little in the way of research or partnerships to develop sustainable programs for intervention training and implementation. I’m excited that this grant will enable us to partner with these agencies and pursue a standardized protocol for organizations that can improve trajectories for children.”
Community agencies that serve young children with developmental delays—in Texas, the agencies that serve children between birth and the age of 2 provide what is known as Early Childhood Intervention (ECI)—provide meaningful resources for children and their families.
Gerow’s IES grant is designed to help these agencies utilize additional tools for children and their families through training in evidence-based interventions.
“There’s a great deal of research in evidence-based practices to reduce problem behavior. It’s a well-established field,” Gerow said. “These interventions involve identifying the purpose of the problem behavior and then implementing an intervention based on addressing that purpose.”
Bridging the gap
Most parents can identify with elements of what is known in the field as problem behavior: lashing out or misbehaving when children are hungry, unable to play with a favorite toy or simply wanting their parent’s attention. But for children with developmental disabilities, typical parenting strategies are often insufficient to meet their developmental needs. Some children may resort to more aggressive behaviors such as hitting others or damaging items. Interventions that address these behaviors are shown to be more effective the earlier they are implemented.
The challenge for individuals and agencies who serve children with developmental disabilities is that evidence-based interventions—those that have been validated through rigorous testing and research—come with incumbent obstacles to implementation. The assessments and intervention development specific to an individual child’s needs are time-consuming and often require a professional with a master’s degree.
For professionals whose time is already taxed by the need for their services, Gerow’s research will seek to bridge a gap in the training and implementation of these evidence-based practices and provide a manualized process for professionals.
“This project is unique because we haven’t really partnered with these agencies who are already providing services to our young children with disabilities,” Gerow said. “This research aims to figure out how we can best get these interventions, that we know to be effective, into the hands of the people who work with children.”
Early career development, mentoring
The U.S. Department of Education funds grants through IES, its statistics, research and evaluation arm. The research awards are highly competitive, with only five Early Career Development and Mentoring awards being presented this year. Among Baylor faculty, Gerow is the first to win such an award from the Department of Education.
“Dr. Gerow’s new work with agencies serving children with developmental disabilities is consequential and much needed,” said Shanna Hagan-Burke, Ph.D., dean of Baylor School of Education. “The Early Career Development and Mentoring Award from the U.S. Department of Education is extremely competitive, and Dr. Gerow’s receipt of it is a testament to the relevance and rigor of her research agenda. The mentoring and collaborative elements of Dr. Gerow’s grant will benefit Baylor University by expanding our ability to serve the local community and by increasing opportunities for graduate students to be a part of meaningful applied research and outreach efforts.”
The IES grant provides four years of funding. Gerow will spend roughly the first year reviewing literature and identifying strategies validated by research as being best for early childhood. The first and second year also will involve information-gathering from administrators, early childhood professionals and parents, with training and testing beginning in the program’s third year.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 19,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.
ABOUT BAYLOR SCHOOL OF EDUCATION
For more than 100 years, Baylor educators have carried the mission and practices of the School of Education to classrooms and beyond as teachers, leaders in K12 and higher education, psychologists, academics/scholars and more. With more than 50 full-time faculty members, the school’s growing research portfolio complements its long-standing commitment to excellence in teaching and student mentoring. Baylor’s undergraduate program in teacher education has earned national distinction for innovative partnerships with local schools that provide future teachers deep clinical preparation, while graduate programs culminating in both the Ed.D. and Ph.D. prepare outstanding leaders, teachers and clinicians through an intentional blend of theory and practice. Visit www.baylor.edu/SOE to learn more.