Division for Early Childhood (DEC) - Early Childhood Education - Pedagogy

Early Childhood Education

Division for Early Childhood (DEC)


The Division for Early Childhood (DEC) of the Council for Exceptional Children is a nonprofit, membership organization designed for individuals who work with or on behalf of children with special needs, from birth through age 8, and their families. Founded in 1973, DEC is dedicated to promoting policies and advancing practices that support families and enhance the optimal development of young children who have, or are at risk for, developmental delays and disabilities.

With 5,000 members worldwide, DEC is the largest professional membership organization dedicated to early childhood special education. DEC members are practitioners, administrators, family members, and policymakers. DEC represents a number of disciplines including early childhood special education, early intervention, speech therapy, psychology, health care, physical and occupational therapy, and others directly involved in the care and education of young children with disabilities and other special needs.

DEC and its members are committed to advocating for policy, planning and best practice in prevention and intervention. DEC supports full access for young children with special needs and their families to natural settings and service delivery options. Respect for family values, diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and family circumstance are integral considerations in DEC’s prevention and intervention efforts and DEC actively promotes parent-professional collaboration in all facets of planning, designing, and implementing early childhood intervention services.

As a membership organization, DEC supports those who work with, or on behalf of, infants and young children with special needs and their families in a variety of settings including preschool special education classrooms, home- based early intervention programs, Head Start and Early Head Start, child-care programs, hospital-based programs, and others. DEC promotes collaboration and communication among organizations, practitioners, and family members, innovations in research and the development of new knowledge, dissemination and use of information about research, resources, best practices and current issues, and professional development through an array of activities and strategies. With a network of more than thirty state and provincial Subdivisions, DEC offers numerous opportunities to network with colleagues and participate in professional development activities in support of early childhood special education.

DEC is a community of professionals, parents and others who are interested in building partnerships at the local, state/provincial, national and international levels to promote high-quality services for young children and their families. Key activities include providing (1) professional development and other training opportunities; (2) two quarterly journals—the Journal of Early Intervention and the Young Exceptional Children; (3) position statements and concept papers on topics of interest to practitioners, parents, researchers, and policymakers; (4) nearly twenty products including books, monographs, videos, and DEC’s most important resource—DEC Recommended Practices: A Comprehensive Guide for Practical Application, a resource for identifying evidence-based practices for young children with disabilities and other special needs; (5) an international annual conference; (6) advocacy efforts including a Children’s Action Network to communicate with the field and regular policy updates; and (7) opportunities for professionals and parents to share expertise via electronic communication, publications, forums, conference presentations, and journal articles.

Further Readings: DEC Web site: www.dec-sped.org.

Sarah A. Mulligan