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Early childhood educators’ understanding of common childhood mental health diagnoses and procedures

22 July 2013


Rates of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnoses have increased in recent years (Center for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2010; CDC 2012). Both of these disorders require symptoms to be present during early developmental periods (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). As young children spend much of their time in childcare, Early Childhood Educators (ECEs) are likely to encounter children with these disorders (Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, 2007). However, there is little research on the role of ECEs in the process of identification and referral of children for evaluation or mental health services or ECEs’ knowledge about ADHD and ASD. This study evaluated the knowledge of ECEs about ADHD

and ASD and the process of referring children for services. It also evaluated the effects of a 2-hour training on ECEs’ knowledge about these disorders using the Knowledge of Attention Deficit Disorder Scale (Sciutto, Terjesen, & Bender Frank, 2000) and the Autism Survey (Stone & Rosenbaum, 1988), as well as a brief demographics/teaching history questionnaire. Results indicated that ECEs had low knowledge levels regarding ADHD, but greater knowledge of ASD. Knowledge of ADHD and ASD increased significantly pre- and post-training. ECEs had greater knowledge of the symptoms of ADHD than the causes, course, or treatment of the disorder. This study contributes to the body of literature regarding ECEs’ knowledge and training, specifically in the domain of childhood disorders such as ADHD and ASD. The study also provides evidence for the need for increased ECE training regarding these childhood disorders as well as the efficacy of short-term training for increasing knowledge in those domains.


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