News & Events

Darland to Present at INAEYC

April 2024

Charissa Darland, Educational Resource Specialist for the Early Childhood Center, will be presenting at this year’s INAEYC conference, on both Inclusion and the Recruitment and Retention of Early Childhood Professionals. The INAEYC conference will be held April 5th-6th in Indianapolis. Registration can be found here: Conference - MAIN - Indiana AEYC 

ECC Hosts First Steps National Webinar

February 2024

The Early Childhood Center hosted the First Steps National Webinar Series session entitled “Choosing Evidence-Based Practices in Early Intervention” by Dr. Brett Enneking. Dr. Enneking is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the Division of Developmental Medicine at Riley Hospital for Children and Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine. Dr. Enneking’s expertise includes improving access to evidence-based diagnostic and intervention services for young children with neurodevelopmental and behavioral disorders. Resource: Evidence Maps Search (

Herron and Hall Present at DEC Conference

November and December 2023

The Early Childhood Center presented three sessions at the Division for Early Childhood’s 39th Annual International Conference on Young Children with Disabilities and Their Families in Minneapolis. Research Associate Lynne Hall presented “Honoring the Whole Child Through Culturally Responsive Family Engagement” and “Building a Strong Equitable Learning Foundation” and Director Katie Herron presented on “Using Hope Theory to Support Families’ Aspirations and Decision-Making”.

Herron Completes Leadership Certification

November 2023

The Early Childhood Center’s Director, Dr. Katie Herron, completed the Indiana University Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leadership Certification Program in November. The program offers participants a comprehensive, academically grounded training program with expert-led classes that help participants become better leaders, managers and allies in today’s workplace.

Herron Gives Keynote Address

November 2023

The Early Childhood Center’s Director, Dr. Katie Herron, gave the keynote address at the Early Years Initiative Roadshow in Sellersburg on November 14th before joining a panel alongside Ashley Purdue (Indiana Department of Child Services), Chris Mescia (All IN Pediatrics - Nassim, McMonigle & Mescia) and Jennifer Owens (Blue River Services, Inc.) to discuss the topic. Early Learning Indiana is promoting their Early Years Initiative by traveling around the state highlighting key issues essential to high quality early learning. Herron’s keynote focused on family-engaged developmental monitoring, screening and referrals.

2nd annual Infant/Toddler Mental Health Summit

The ECC is pleased to be co-hosting the 2nd annual Infant/Toddler Mental Health Summit with the Riley Child Development Center LEND program. The summit will be held at Government Center South on Monday, October 16th 2023 from 9 AM-3 PM.

Participants will learn about data and initiatives available statewide and have opportunities to network with stakeholders across sectors. Dr. Herron, ECC Director, will present. Please click this RSVP link to attend.


Seeking Family Members of Cildren with Disabilities

Early Childhood Center (ECC) staff are seeking families of children with disabilities to allow us to record Zoom conversations about a variety of topics related to family expectations and inclusion (see list of specific questions).
  • These recordings will be used as one component of a series of “micro-learnings” being designed for families of young children with disabilities.
  • Participating families will be asked to sign a video release from IU.
  • Families will be paid a $50 stipend for their time. Recordings should take about 30 minutes.
  • If you are interested or if you have questions, please email Katie Herron at

ECC Has LifeCourse Ambassadors

August 2023

Janet Ballard, Charissa Darland, and Katherine Hargreaves at the Early Childhood Center have become LifeCourse Ambassadors. The ambassador series is a multiple week course that walks participants through the multiple tools available through the framework. Charting the LifeCourse (CtLC) framework was created to help individuals and families of all abilities and all ages develop a vision for a good life. The framework is the keystone for supporting a community of learning that champions transformational change through knowledge exchange, capacity building and collaborative engagement. This framework was developed by the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC) Institute for Human Development.

ECC Receives Grant from AWS Foundation

July 2023

The Early Childhood Center (ECC) is grateful to receive a grant from the AWS Foundation to develop to pilot a series of “Dream Big, Start Early” micro-learnings for young families of children with disabilities. Early childhood systems often play an important role in the lives of families with young children with disabilities. However, systems have gaps, and the Early Childhood Center (ECC) has identified two critical gaps that impact families in early childhood. The micro-learnings will focus on these two gaps. One gap is around the importance and development of high family expectations. There is a considerable body of research demonstrating the connection between family expectations and children’s academic outcomes. Unfortunately, most of this research has been conducted with families of older children as they transition to adulthood. Most families have been living with and addressing their child’s diagnosis for years by the time they enter high school. If families are supported to dream big and foster high, long-term expectations, they may provide more support, more opportunities, and more encouragement to their young children with disabilities. The second gap is around understanding inclusion. Research has shown that inclusive environments are correlated with positive outcomes for children with and without disabilities. Despite this, early childhood systems do not clearly and consistently communicate information and guidance around inclusion to families with young children with disabilities. The micro-learnings will be created and piloted in collaboration with childcare and family support organizations in the Northeast part of Indiana over the next year. Contact Katie Herron with questions.

ECC Welcomes Lynne Hall, M.S.

June 2023

The Early Childhood Center (ECC) is excited to welcome Lynne Hall, M.S. back to the Institute as a Research Associate. Hall conducts preschool research and evaluation services, consultation, training and technical assistance to educators and policymakers in early childhood programs, schools, districts, and state departments of education seeking to improve their early childhood services. With over 30 years of experience in multiple early childhood roles, Lynne brings valuable perspectives to the ECC. Click here to learn more or contact Lynne.

Early Childhood Mental Health

Katie Herron, Ph.D, Director of Early Childhood Center will present a webinar on Monday, May 15th from 2:00-3:00PM EST on what data tells us about the mental health of our youngest citizens. The webinar is free but registration is required.

National Webinar on Brain Development

February 2023

Do you want to learn more about how the brain impacts early childhood development? The Early Childhood Center is supporting First Steps to host a free webinar on February 22, 2023 at 12 PM EST titled “Brain Development in Context” by Dr. Sarah Enos Watamura. Dr. Watamura is a developmental psychobiologist at the University of Denver and the co-Director of the Stress, Early Experiences and Development (SEED) Research Center. 

Indiana Early Intervention Conference

January 2023

The 2023 Indiana Early Intervention Conference will be held in-person on June 8-9, 2023 in Bloomington, IN. First Step and INfancy Onward have partnered with the Early Childhood Center at IIDC to bring together national and local experts to address research and best practices in Early Childhood Intervention. To learn more about the conference or become a sponsor or exhibitor, please visit the conference website.

December 2022

Dr. Katie Herron, Interim Director of the Early Childhood Center (ECC), completed the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Indiana Coalition’s Master Trainer Training Series, presented by the ACEs Indiana Coalition. The ACEs Indiana Coalition is a diverse and growing group of professionals from different backgrounds, experiences, and communities. Their shared goal is to raise awareness of the effects of childhood trauma and help communities build trauma-informed systems and programs with integrated mental health supports. Dr. Herron will be incorporating current research on neuroscience and its implications into early childhood initiatives at the ECC and is available to share content upon request:

ECC Supports FGRBI Roll Out

November 2022

ECC is supporting First Steps in the adoption of Family Guided Routines Based Intervention (FGRBI) as a state model of service provision. Approximately 32 First Steps providers will have completed the first cohort of the FGRBI professional development sequence this November. These dedicated providers have completed on-line modules, attended webinars, and have participated in a series of professional learning community meetings which included video submission and review to advance their coaching practices with families.

Ballard Selected to DEC Workgroups

September 2022

Janet Ballard, Research Associate, from the Early Childhood Center has been selected to be on the Division of Early Childhood (DEC) Recommended Practices Equity workgroup. She will be traveling to Chapel Hill, North Carolina to work with early childhood professionals from around the country on evaluating the DEC Recommended Practices through an equity lens. The group will meet in October, November and December to complete this work.

Herron Receives Mental Health Champion for 2022-2023

October 2022

Dr. Katie Herron, Interim Director of the Early Childhood Center, has been chosen by the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) and the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) at CDC to represent Indiana as Children’s Mental Health Champion for 2022-2023. This opportunity will allow Dr. Herron to compile statewide data on infant/toddler mental health in collaboration with a workgroup from the Infant/Toddler Mental Health Summit held earlier this year. Additionally, Dr. Herron will collaborate with state partners to offer two webinars and a series of brief videos on infant/toddler mental health topics and resources. 

Hargreaves Presents at INARF

On August 18, 20222, Katherine Hargreaves made an introductory Family Guided Routines Based Intervention presentation at the INARF Child and Family section meeting.  Attendees were provided with information explaining the components of the coaching practice that has been adopted as Indiana’s early intervention model of service provision.

Darland Chosen for National DEC Service Coordination Committee

Charissa Darland, Educational Resource Specialist for the Early Childhood Center, has been chosen to sit on the national DEC Service Coordination Committee. The newly created SC Committee consists of 15 members who aim to address the calls to action in the DEC/ITCA Joint Position Statement: Service Coordination and Early Intervention; develop resources to support professional development; promote high quality service coordination; and partner with internal and external stakeholders (e.g., IDEA Infant/Toddler Coordinators Association, Early Childhood Personnel Center, Zero to Three). SC Committee members serve for two years with reappointment as an option upon approval by the Executive Office and Committee Chair(s).

Preschool Conference A Success

April 2022

The Early Childhood Center recently held their second virtual Promoting Positive Outcomes conference. The keynotes, Adiba Nelson and Bethany Van Delft focused on including children with disabilities in preschool programs with their typically developing peers, and the collaboration required to make that a successful endeavor. The 721 attendees who registered will be able to access all sessions through the event platform for the next year.

FGRBI Work in Indiana

March 2022

The Early Childhood Center is partnering with First Steps and Florida State University to provide FGRBI or Family Guided Routines Based Intervention professional development in Indiana! This opportunity for early intervention providers utilizes caregiver coaching to support parent and child interactions. Early intervention providers encourage parent-implemented intervention that is meaningful to each family and embedded within a family’s routines and daily activities. As part of the training process, providers work through interactive online learning modules to learn the FGRBI frameworks and take part in interactive learning and discussion in small groups. Participants will work with peers and facilitators to evaluate and adjust their own early intervention practices.

The first cohort of participants kicked off their professional development experience in January with a second group to begin in May. We are excited to grow our network of FGRBI trained providers throughout Indiana’s First Steps early intervention system!

ECC Welcomes Charissa Darland

February 2022

The Early Childhood Center is excited to announce Charissa Darland as its Educational Resources Specialist . Charissa has worked with Early Head Start and with First Steps as a Service Coordinator and Supervisor. She resides in Lafayette, Indiana with her husband, two children, and two cats. Her personal hobbies include gardening and learning about the Japanese culture. Charissa is passionate about serving children with disabilities and their families and has experience with the First Steps system, as not only in professional roles, but also as a parent with two children currently receiving therapy through its system.

ECC welcomes two new staff members!

Katherine Hargreaves
Katherine has worked in both early intervention and/or Early Head Start in Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia, Illinois and, for the last 19 years, here in Indiana. Most recently, she has served as the Early Intervention Services Manager at Easterseals Crossroads in Indianapolis. She has a B.S. in Early Childhood Education from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a M.S. in Child Development from the Erikson Institute. Katherine will be heading up the FGRBI implementation in Indiana as well as serving as a Master Coach in order to support First Steps providers to learn this new model.

Kayla O'Neill
Kayla has been working in Early Intervention for about 10 years in North Dakota, Minnesota, and currently in Indiana. She has a B.S. in Special Education with an emphasis in Early Childhood Special Education and Developmental Disabilities from Minnesota State University Moorhead and a M.A. in Education with a focus on English as New Language Learners from Augustana University. Kayla is training to be an FGRBI Master Coach and will support First Steps providers to learn this new model.

We Are Going Virtual & FREE!

The Early Childhood Special Education Conference “Promoting Positive Outcomes: Shaping a Better Future Through Effective Inclusion, Collaboration and Transition” will be held virtually on April 19 & 20, 2022. The health and safety of our community is our primary concern and we are committed to holding the conference following the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Our virtual conference last year was well received and we hope to follow that with an equally compelling conference in April. 

Join Our Team!

December 2021

The Early Childhood Center (ECC) is seeking to fill a full-time staff position starting February 1, 2021 and ending no later than November 30, 2023. The position's primary role involves supporting the development and testing of a new framework for First Steps Service Coordination. We are seeking an individual with First Steps Service Coordination experience who can provide content expertise as well as effectively communicate with other Service Coordinators statewide as we gather feedback on drafts of the framework, make revisions, and train others in the model. 

Announcing the Early Childhood Center's Early Literacy Blog!

November 2021

Covid-19 learning loss is a reality for many children. In response, ECC has created an Early Literacy Blog where we work to promote research-to-practice in early childhood PK-3 classrooms, focusing especially on inclusive and culturally responsive pedagogy. 

Early Childhood Center is Recruiting School Districts to Receive Technical Assistance 

October 2021

For six years, the ECC has received funding from the Department of Education Office of Special Education (DOE OSE) to work on their behalf to support districts to improve the quality of early childhood special education services In Indiana. Our goal is to promote special education services that are inclusive, equitable, and effective for all preschoolers with disabilities.  We are committed to increasing the number of preschoolers with disabilities to be educated alongside their peers without disabilities.  To do this we know it takes a full district commitment to make the needed sustainable changes in program services that include building practitioner capacity to provide effective inclusive services. Currently, we have an opening to offer intensive and long-term technical assistance to one more school district. 

Herron Presents Research at DEC

October 2021

Katie Herron, Assistant Research Scientist at the Early Childhood Center (ECC), presented at the Division for Early Childhood's 37th Annual International Conference on Young Children with Disabilities and Their Families on September 23rd. Her presentation, titled “Dream Big: What Research Tells Us About High Family Expectations”. Dr. Herron shared existing research as well as preliminary findings from a recently concluded study conducted at the ECC. In addition to sharing research findings, Dr. Herron emphasized the importance of supporting families of young children with disabilities to: identify long-term goals, learn about options/pathways to reach those goals and to build the confidence and capacity to work effectively with systems.

Call for Proposals at First Steps Conference

October 2021

Indiana First Steps is partnering with Indiana University's Early Childhood Center to bring together national and local experts on early intervention. To submit a proposal to present your evidence-based research or innovative ideas at the conference please complete. Submissions will be accepted until January 4, 2022.

Call for Proposals for Early Childhood Conference

September 2021

The Early Childhood Special Education Conference Promoting Positive Outcomes: Shaping a Better Future Through Effective Inclusion, Collaboration, and Transition will be held in person in Bloomington, Indiana on April 19 & 20, 2022. We invite you to submit a proposal for a traditional session or a poster presentation. 

Join Our Team!

August 2021

We are seeking an individual with experience and expertise in early intervention services to work with a team dedicated to improving early intervention outcomes for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families. As part of our long standing partnership with Indiana’s First Steps program, this position will help us provide training and ongoing support to First Steps agencies and providers as Indiana adopts home visiting practices that reflect a routines-based family coaching model. Telecommuting may be possible. 

Child Impact Project Launch

July 2021

We are excited to share the launch of the Child Impact Project Website: A Roadmap to Quality Special Education Services for Young Children. The Early Childhood Center, part of Indiana University’s Institute on Disability and Community, developed this website in partnership with the Indiana Department of Education’s Office of Special Education.

Technical Assistance for New Inclusive Classrooms

June 2021

The Early Childhood Center is engaged in providing technical assistance to a northern Indiana school district around the vision of creating an effective, fully inclusive preschool program. Using implementation science, we have completed the exploration phase and are currently beginning to plan their initiative with them for the piloting of two classrooms to be put into place this coming school year. 

Ballard Elected Board Member At Large for IN-DEC

June 2021

Janet Ballard has been elected to the IN-DEC board as a member at large. Her term will begin July 1, 2021. She is looking forward to using her 29 years of early childhood experience to promote positive change to the field. The Indiana Division for Early Childhood is a non-profit, promoting policies and advancing evidence-based practices that support families and enhance the optimal development of young children (0-8) who have or are at risk for developmental delays and disabilities in Indiana.

ECC Welcomes Christopher Staton

March 2021

Christopher Staton, MA, has 10 plus years of direct service experience in early intervention and early childhood special education as an early childhood special education behavior interventionist, early intervention specialist, and early childhood adjunct professor and professional development grant coordinator. Christopher is a father of three, who in his spare time enjoys outdoors activities and sports.

Stanton holds a Bachelor's degree in Sociology from Hampton University, a Master's degree in Special Education and Human Development from The George Washington University, and a Graduate Professional Certificate in Early Intervention from Georgetown University.

ECC Welcomes Nancy Simmons

March 2021

Nancy Simmons joins the Early Childhood Center at the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community as a Research Assistant. She has worked as an occupational therapist with both children and adults, practicing for most of her career with infants and toddlers enrolled in the early intervention system. She recently relocated to Bloomington from the southern Illinois area. Nancy holds a Bachelor's Degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Southern Indiana and a Master's of Health Sciences Degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Indianapolis. In her spare time, Nancy enjoys gardening, travel, and planning adventures with her husband and three children

ECC Welcomes Antonieta Barces

March 2021

Antonieta Barces started her career working with adults with disabilities as a medical assistant for two years. Later, she spent 13 years working with young children in the Early Childhood Intervention program in Texas. Barces found her passion working with children and families from diverse backgrounds, assuming different roles as a service coordinator and developmental therapist/early intervention specialist. Moreover, Barces worked extensively conducting assessments to determine eligibility for early intervention services and lead a group of children to support their transition into the preschool program. It has always been her focus to provide services grounded on evidence-based practices.

Barces holds a Bachelor’s degree in Medicine from the University San Martin de Porres in Lima, Peru and a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of North Texas.

ECC Presents at ICASE Conference

February 2021

On February 10, 2021 Michael Conn-Powers, Director of the Early Childhood Center, Sally Reed Crawford, Research Associate, Lynne Hall, Research Associate, and Susan Dixon, Research Associate presented at the Indiana Council of Special Education Administrators (ICASE) conference. The session provided an overview of the Early Childhood Center and the Indiana Department of Education Office of Special Education partnership by highlighting its Preschool Inclusion and Early Literacy projects. Best practices in preschool inclusion and early literacy were outlined and universal and targeted resources developed by ECC and available to support districts in navigating change were showcased (e.g., Least Restrictive Environment Decision Tree, the Online Directory of Preschool Inclusion Models, data dashboards to inform district decision-making).