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Richard Doty

Samuel Odom
School of Education

Last modified: Tuesday, September 17, 2002

IU professor helps preschool children with disabilities succeed

Samuel Odom spends a lot of time researching ways to help preschool children with disabilities succeed.

Odom, the Otting Chair in Special Education at Indiana University, is in the second year of a three-year grant to increase understanding of how the quality of preschool programs relates to how children with disabilities develop.

Working with colleagues at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Odom has secured federal funding from the U.S. Department of Education that exceeds $500,000 for the three years. Over the past 20 years he has received more than $11 million in grants for his research.

"Most of our work is with three- to five-year-olds with developmental delays in such skills as talking, walking and playing with their classmates," Odom said. He directs the IU doctoral program in special education and has a national reputation for his research dealing with preschool children with disabilities.

"Our goal is to help these children become successful in life as independent members of society. Research shows that if you provide intervention early, it's more likely to pay off when the children enter school, especially for at-risk children," he explained.

Odom speaks from extensive research experience in the area of children with disabilities in preschool programs. He is the editor of seven books, the author of 23 book chapters, and has published more than 60 journal articles in this field. He has made nearly 150 professional presentations in the last 10 years at local, regional and national conferences.

He said his research results also help families learn what they can do to help in their children's development. "This affects the aspirations of the family and hopes for the child," he said. "Good early intervention also means families can become better advocates for their child."

Odom said this is particularly important for children in poverty. "These children face many challenges and tend to be less prepared to be successful in school. Their families do care, but they may not have the resources or know what to do to support their development," he said. Odom is currently awaiting funding on a planning grant to help design a curriculum for children in poverty with developmental delays.

He estimates that there are more than 800,000 infants and preschool children in this country with developmental delays. Also, there are many more "at-risk" children whose problems will be identified once they enter school, but who are more difficult to identify when they are preschoolers.

For more information, contact Odom at 812-856-8174 or