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Early Support from Birth Onwards: ZEPPELIN Feasibility Study

Background and aims

In collaboration with the Office for Youth and Careers Advice at the Education Department of the Canton of Zurich, the University of Applied Sciences of Special Needs Education in Zurich (HfH) launched ZEPPELIN (Zurich Equity Prevention Project 8210; Parental Participation and Integration), the first programme of its kind in Switzerland providing intensive support for families in situations of psychosocial risk: "PAT – Learning with Parents”.

Target Group

The focus is on children in families with constellations of psychosocial risk, who are growing up in disadvantaged conditions which in turn place them at a disadvantage, and also on their parents. Support measures are to be applied as early as possible and parents' child-rearing skills are to be strengthened.


The first aim is the early identification of children whose development is at risk, then early support for these children with a view to enhancing their education opportunities sustainably. Impact assessment, with randomised group controls, tests to what extent these aims are achieved.


Support programme

"PAT – Learning with Parents” seeks to raise parents' awareness of their children's age-specific needs, prepare them to work constructively with education establishments, and provide optimum support for the children, including their language development. A maternity counsellor from the local early childhood advice centre, who has received additional training as a "PAT parental coach”, visits the family at home (one to four visits a month depending on the needs of the case) and invites them to attend monthly events at the family centre. Academic review offers convincing evidence that PAT has been effective in the United States. The programme has been translated into German and adapted to European conditions.


Feasibility study

In a two-year pilot at Dietikon in the Canton of Zurich (1 July 2009 to 30 June 2011), we tested early detection, early support and evaluation in a small random sample of 15 families (10 in the intervention group, 5 in the control group) and achieved the project goals, including:

Outcome 1: Reaching a poorly accessible target group

Thanks to the efforts of the local maternity counsellor, intercultural interpreters and interdisciplinary cooperation, especially with social services and paediatric practices, access to the target group was such that almost no child fell through the system net. Of 159 births between 1 January and 30 June 2010, there were only 9 families with risk potential who we were unable to reach (recruitment rate 94.7 %).

Outcome 2: Effect of the programme on the development of children and the integration and child-rearing skills of their parents

With the support programme in operation for little over a year with just 15 families, and after testing the research instruments, it is still too early to discern any generalisable effects in the children. However, we are cautiously optimistic about the data analyses: the mothers supported by the PAT programme tend to display more favourable child-rearing skills than the mothers in the control group. The children in the intervention group are showing signs of better language development.


  • Lanfranchi, A., Neuhauser, A., Caflisch, J., Kubli, B. & Steinegger, B. (2011). Förderung ab Geburt - Machbarkeitsstudie ZEPPELIN/M (2009-2011). Schlussbericht vom 22. Dez. 2011. Zürich: Hochschule für Heilpädagogik und Amt für Jugend und Berufsberatung, unveröff. Typoskript (68 S.).


Forschung und Entwicklung
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