Evidence-Based, Empirically Supported, or Scientifically Unsupported? An Overview of the Research to Practice Gap in Early Childhood Special Education

Sara Movahedazarhouligh


Valid research is crucial for evaluating the effects of utilized practices, strategies, and interventions on learners with exceptionalities. In the United States, for the past several decades, considerable research and policies have focused on developing evidence-based practices (EBPs), evidence-informed programs, and other research-supported initiatives that intend to produce better outcomes for children with disabilities. However, past and current efforts to translate, transport, and close the research to practice gap have not successfully disseminated the growing list of evidence-based interventions, strategies, and programs routinely into practice. The gap between research and practice is particularly problematic in special education and early childhood special education (ECSE). Children and students with disabilities require highly effective instruction to reach their potential. This conceptual review paper provides an overview of EBPs in ECSE and elaborates on the research to practice gap and the related issues. The paper discusses the identification, implementation, and dissemination of EBPs that have been regarded as the challenges the field of ECSE faces in closing the research to practice gap. Finally, implications and recommendations for future research, practice, and policy are discussed.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.51383/jesma.2022.23