Special groups

Research has shown that the quality of the day care center’s learning environment is significant for the optimum neurobiological development of the child, especially during the first years of life (Caine, 1998; Gunnar & Donzella, 2002). The quality of early childhood education and the learning environment are also known to be related to the child’s behavior. Especially children with developmental delay or disruption of behavior will benefit especially from high-quality early childhood education and environmental support (Booth, 2002). In a high-quality early childhood education, the child feels safe, gets experiences of peer grouping and learning experiences that are appropriate for her age. Joining the group and feeling familiar with the group is the basic psychological and biological human need (Maslow 1986; Hagerty ym. 1996; Janson 2001; Sajaniemi & Mäkelä 2015).

Challenging behavior and attention disorder are common ancillary problems in many childhood-specific needs diagnosis (Sajaniemi et al., 2008). Numerous special pedagogic interventions have for several years been aimed at promoting linguistic or cognitive development in children with special needs, but the effectiveness of interventions in individual skills has often been lagging behind (Currie, 2001, Reid ym. , 2004).

This research project evaluates the impact of biological (temperament, developmental risks) and environmental factors, especially early childhood education, on the well being, adaptation, development and learning of the child. Well-being involves essentially the fact that the child is not only treated but also has the opportunity to practice important things with other children. In these situations, adults have important role of detecting and strengthening child initiatives. We expect it to promote the child’s social skills, attentiveness, and knowledge-based development. Learning and development is monitored by evaluating the progress of pragmatic skills, language development, problem-solving and socio-emotional skills in a variety of Early Learning Learning environments.


Sub-project I. The quality of early childhood education and the development and learning of children in integrated special groups in Helsinki

The first part of the research project, 2012-2015, monitored children’s development paths in special groups (segregated groups 2, integrated special groups 20). In addition, the quality of early childhood education was assessed and the methods and intervention programs that were implemented in the groups. According to the research results, the quality of early childhood education was very high in the groups participating in the study. The groups used a wide range of special pedagogical and general pedagogical methods and various intervention programs. The environments in the learning environment were well designed and catered to the individual needs of the children. Interaction between children and adults as well as engagement were high. In particular, the high quality of teamwork is well highlighted in the research results. (Alijoki et al., 2013.) According to a preliminary analysis, the play skills of all children, linguistic and cognitive skills, had developed during the study period. (Kesäläinen et al. 2016, an article is in preparation).

Sub-project II: Special kindergarten teacher in a regular day care center: supporting the development and learning of children with special needs in inclusive early childhood education

The first task of this sub-project is to chart the job of a special kindergarten teacher when he is working as a part of day care and nursing staff in ordinary day care centers (special kindergarten teacher model). Because the previously developed and described ”Relto model” has changed slightly over the years. For example, nowadays special school teachers belong to nursing and rearing staff. It is interesting to know the functionality of the new model.

The second task is to follow the development paths of children 3 to 6 years age, with special needs, in kindergartens for 2 years in the aforementioned kindergartens. The research also seeks to find answers to how and what kind of day care structures ”Elto model” best supports.


Research group:

Eira Suhonen, PhD, Docent, University lecturer, project leader
Alisa Alijoki, PhD, University lecturer, investigator
Nina Sajaniemi, PhD, Docent, University lecturer, project leader of Early childhood and early special childhood education.
Mari Nislin, PhD, post doc researcher
Marja Syrjämäki, M.Ed, VEO, PhD student
Jonna Kesäläinen, M.Ed, PhD student
Laura Kiuru, B.Ed, kindergarten teacher