A division of the Council for Exceptional Children, the international professional organization known as DEC, presented McLean with the award on Oct. 9, at its annual conference in Atlanta. The award recognizes an individual who has made meaningful contributions to early childhood special education and early intervention that improve the lives of young children with special needs and their supporters.
A leader for DEC and in her field, McLean has guided and advanced research, policy, and practices in the field for more than 35 years. She has served on the DEC executive board and every leadership role in the organization, including president. She contributed to the DEC Recommended Practices first developed in the 1990s to provide guidance to practitioners and families on the most effective ways to promote the development of young children, birth through age 5, who have or are at-risk for developmental delays or disabilities. Since that time, she has participated in multiple updates and currently serves as chair of the DEC Recommended Practices Commission, which produced the most recent update of the Recommended Practices in April of 2014.
McLean, a faculty member in the UF College of Education, joined the Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies last year through the UF Preeminence initiative.
Center Director Patricia Snyder considers herself fortunate to have been a colleague and friend of McLean’s for more than 25 years.
“Her extensive knowledge of the field combined with her extraordinary work ethic, principled leadership, team spirit, and her unwavering commitment to young children with disabilities and their families, make Dr. McLean deserving of this honor and recognition from DEC,” Snyder said.
Snyder, the David Lawrence Jr. Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Studies at UF, received the McEvoy award in 2012.
Among McLean’s many scholarly contributions, she is the lead author of a widely used and highly regarded textbook focused on early childhood assessment. She has consulted with a number of programs and states around recommended practices in early childhood assessment. Recognizing the need for a peer-reviewed journal that would provide practitioners with information about recommended and evidence-based practices, she also was responsible for the creation and oversight of the first issues of Young Exceptional Children.
Prior to joining UF, McLean spent 17 years on the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and was the Kellner Endowed professor in early childhood education. She also directed the Early Childhood Special Education program and served as Director of the Early Childhood Research Center.
“The field of Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education has grown rapidly since its beginning in the 1970s, but there is still much work to be done. Like many other fields, teamwork — especially interdisciplinary teamwork — is vital to our ability to provide the best possible services for young children with special needs and their families.”
These days, McLean is working on grants totaling nearly $6 million. Two grants are funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs. She is serving as the lead investigator for a $1.2 million personnel preparation grant, which focuses on applying evidence-based practices in settings for young children with special needs. She is also helping to lead a $1 million grant called Preparing Leaders in Early Childhood Studies and Implementation Science. This four-year doctoral leadership grant is designed to help support the next generation of leaders in early childhood studies.
This past July, McLean joined Snyder as a co-principal investigator of a $3.5 million research grant funded by the Institute of Education Sciences. The study aims to determine the impact and efficacy of preschool teachers’ use of embedded instruction practices, which are part of an evidence-supported teaching approach that supports early childhood development.