Effectiveness of early childhood special education: A literature analysis

Category Project

Ausgangslage und Ziele

How effective are special education measures? The question of evidence has been raised more and more often in recent years. Not only professionals but also those on the receiving end of the measures, the contracting authorities, and not least economists want more transparency and evidence of effectiveness. This concern also applies to early childhood special education. However, it is a very complex matter to demonstrate the effectiveness of an intervention in practice, as many different factors can have an effect on the intended goals. Lütolf, Venetz, and Koch (2016) point out that the scientific evidence for (early childhood) special education interventions is extremely multifaceted.

The aim of this research project is to produce a literature overview of the research on effectiveness in the area of early childhood special education for German- and English-speaking countries.

Project Management

Matthias Lütolf Title MA


Senior Lecturer


  • Duration
  • Neue Projektnummer

Project Team

  • Martin Venetz


The following are the main research questions:

  1. On what aspects of early childhood special education does effectiveness research focus?
  2. How can the research findings on effectiveness be placed within today’s discourse on efficiency and effectiveness?
  3. What groundbreaking findings can be derived from the results of the literature analysis for future research projects?

Methodical approach

For the literature analysis, we will follow as a model Cooper’s (1998) integrative research review. The aim of the approach is to survey the state of knowledge in a research area. Using predetermined keywords and catchwords and possibly also using free text search options, we will search in various databases (among others, PsycInfo, PSYNDEX...). We will include in the analysis (if possible) peer-reviewed articles published in the last 20 years: empirical studies, meta-analyses, and reviews. Since early childhood special education in still relatively young in the German-speaking countries and in addition has undergone many changes in structure and content changes, moving towards a consolidation in recent years, it makes sense to limit the search to a certain time period.


Evaluating the effectiveness of early childhood special education is very complex and multifaceted. The high complexity of the task makes it difficult to analyse effectiveness and in particular the individual factors in depth. For this reason, the studies in the literature mostly deal with a particular, clearly defined aspect of effectiveness. They examine a specific area of development, a particular form of disability, or a conceptionally defined intervention.

Based on theoretical considerations and taking into account recent empirical findings, the literature analysis yielded findings that indicated the high importance and effectiveness of family-oriented work for parents’ self-efficacy expectation and for the experienced effects of early childhood special education. Future research should evolve towards closer examination of particular aspects of family-oriented work. The main question is what approaches can be found to be effective for what parents under what background conditions.


Financial support


  • Lütolf, M., & Venetz, M.
    Familienorientierung als Kriterium von Wirksamkeit Heilpädagogischer Früherziehung. Theoretische Überlegungen und empirische Befunde.
    Vierteljahresschrift für Heilpädagogik und ihre Nachbargebiete,
  • Lütolf, M., Venetz, M., & Koch, C.
    Wirksamkeit der Heilpädagogischen Früherziehung – eine tätigkeitsorientierte Annäherung.
    Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Heilpädagogik,