Related professional experience
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.