Throughout her career in early childhood, Pamela Epley, PhD, has focused on supporting children with disabilities — but beyond the context of special education. Her work has been aimed at helping general education teachers and other child development professionals better understand and support children with disabilities and their families.
“I strongly believe in inclusive schools and communities that are accessible to everyone regardless of ability,” says Dr. Epley. “In order for inclusion to be successful, early childhood teachers and professionals need support and training to build the confidence and competence needed to support the development of children with disabilities.”
In her courses on physical development, assessment, and early intervention methods, which she teaches on campus and online, students learn that there is no “one way” or “right way” to support children’s development. When it comes to teaching and caring for young children — in particular, children with disabilities — professionals must know what questions to ask and listen to parents in order to effectively share their expertise about child development with families and be responsive to the unique needs of each child, she says.
“Children learn and develop in the context of meaningful relationships with adults,” she says. “When we support families, they can better support their children.”
Many special education programs focus on specialized knowledge of teaching children with disabilities, she adds. In her opinion, this knowledge is important but only goes so far without a thorough understanding of child development.
Dr. Epley helps shape Erikson’s early childhood education curriculum and also finds ways to support students who want to eventually fill high-need professional positions in the field. She has written numerous grant proposals and secured funding to provide tuition support for students who want to serve children from culturally and linguistically diverse families, as well as students who have an interest in serving children with disabilities.
- PhD in special education, University of Kansas
- MA in education, Rockhurst University
- BS in physical therapy, Rockhurst University
Areas of Expertise
- Early Intervention
- Inclusive learning environments
- Parent-professional partnerships
- Disability policy
- Physical growth and development
- Trauma-Focused Interprofessional Preparation (TIP) in Early Intervention. (2019-2024). $1,250,000 from Department of Education’s Office of Special Education. Project Director of preservice training grant.
- New Approaches to Childhood Lead Poisoning (2018-2022). $70,000 from Illinois Children’s Health Care Foundation. Principle Investigator in collaboration with Legal Counsel for Health Justice, Illinois Early Intervention Training Program, and Illinois Bureau of Early Intervention Program.
- The Development of Reflective Practice in Erikson Institute Graduate Students. (2016). $58,000 from Pritzker Faculty Innovation Fund and Herr Research Fund. Co-Principle Investigator.
- Erikson Institute Language and Literacy Partners – Provide consultation to facilitators, administrators, and preK-3rd grade teachers in areas of early childhood special education, family-school connections, and Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS); oversee development and implementation of program evaluation, fall 2012 to present.
- Erikson Institute China Initiative – Develop and deliver online and in-person course in preschool assessment for early childhood educators in China’s Red Yellow Blue (RYB) preschool program; 2015 to present.
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- 2021 – Curry, A. & Epley, P. (2021). Toward a reflection-centered model of social work education: Implications for enhanced practice. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 41(1), 57-76. https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/PENQNEII9AH7IF4J6FST/full?target=10.1080/08841233.2020.1855617
- 2020 – Curry, A. & Epley, P. (2020). “It makes you a healthier professional:” The impact of reflective practice on clinicians’ self-care. Journal of Social Work Education. https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/NRRSQIYTHJY4GM6DQAAI/full?target=10.1080/10437797.2020.1817825
- 2018 – Curry, A., Epley, P. (2018) “We’re in a bubble of best practice!” Exploring the development of reflective practice capacities among child development and social work students. Executive Summary and Research Repo
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- Epley, P., Valdez, J. (October, 2020). Children with Developmental Differences: How to Support Your Child’s Success During Covid-19. Neighborhood Parents Network 9th Annual Developmental Differences Resource Fair
- Epley, P., Zimmerman, A., & Hamp, N. (August, 2020). Positively Impacting the Developmental Trajectory of Lead-Exposed Children Through Early Intervention. Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs Annual Conference. Chicago, IL.
- Epley, P, Zimmerman, A., & Szafranski, K. (September, 2019). Potential Restored: How Early Intervention Can Positively Change the Developmental Trajectory for Lead-Poisoned Children. Illinois Developmental Therapy Association Annual Conference. Chicago, Illinois.
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Related professional experience
- Chicago Mayoral Task Force on Improving Literacy for Children with Disabilities, 2015-2017
- Illinois Early Intervention Service Delivery Approaches Focus Group, 2011-2015
- Illinois Early Intervention Family and Child Outcome Work Group 2010-present
- Special Service Educator/Physical Therapist, Kansas City Missouri School District, 1999-2005
- Early Intervention Provider/Physical Therapist, Missouri First Steps Early Intervention Program, Kansas City, Missouri, 1997-2001
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