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Routines-Based Model

Over the past 30 years, Robin McWilliam has developed the Routines-Based Model for working with young children with disabilities and their families. This model consists of practices primarily for use in both home-based supports (indicated on inner circle of the figure) and classroom-based supports (indicated on outer circle of the figure). The practices include what professionals do with children and families, what data are collected for supervision and evaluation, and what methods are used for training, supervision, and evaluation. In the U.S., because the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is divided into Part C (infants and toddlers) and B (preschoolers through school ages), a clear division exists between supports for 0-3 and supports for 3-5, and this is most commonly distinguished by differences in the location of services. The majority of infants and toddlers served under IDEA receive home visits or visits to their child care settings, whereas the majority of preschoolers attend classroom programs. Because home and classroom settings are fundamentally different, the model has some practices designed for the home, others designed for the classroom, but a number designed for both. In organizing the content for RAM Group implementation efforts, we have divided the practices along these lines. The Routines-Based Early Intervention (RBEI) model defines home-based practices, the Engagement Classroom Model defines classroom-based practices.





early intervention

Routines-Based Early Intervention

The RBEI model includes the following practices:


  • Routines-Based Interview (RBI)

  • Ecomap

  • Functional Outcomes/Goals

  • Family Goals

  • Primary Service Provider

  • Collaborative Consultation

  • Support-Based Home Visits (Family Collaboration)


The classroom-based content consists of the Engagement Classroom Model (ECM) and additional elements, most notably Reggio Emilia features and the use of projects. All of these practices support inclusion, which is still woefully not implemented in the U.S. and overseas. The ECM includes the following practices:


  • Integrated Therapy

  • Incidental Teaching

  • Zone Defense Schedule

  • Sit and Watch

  • Engagement, Independence, and Social Relationships

  • Support to Families

  • Classroom MEISR

  • Routines-Based Interview (RBI)

  • Functional Goals


Uniquely, the current ECM combines the original behavioral-ecological approach of the model with the constructivist approach of the Reggio Emilia philosophy. We consider this combination ideal for inclusive classrooms (i.e., with both children with disabilities and children without disabilities). For this model to work, coaches for staff support and training are necessary. Other useful adaptations areEarly childhood special education coaches for staff support and training


  • Ratio of 1 teacher to 4 children

  • Individualized plans for children with disabilities

  • On-site therapists and nurse

  • Accessible playground

  • Observation rooms

  • Checklist training of all staff

Engagement Classroom Model

Reggio-inspired elements include


  • Documentation of learning experiences

  • Project approach

  • Classroom environment as the child’s third teacher

  • Children engaged in play and exploration

  • Teachers’ observing carefully

  • Parents as partners

  • Using real-life experiences and objects

  • Children with disabilities considered children with special rights

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