International Initiatives

Joseph Sparling“It is of particular significance that an early educational intervention produced long-term health effects,” said FPG senior scientist emeritus Joseph Sparling, when FPG released last year's groundbreaking findings. Sparling, co-creator of the Abecedarian Approach, and colleagues have applied updated versions of it in several countries.

With the project's original principal investigator Craig Ramey and with colleagues from the University of Melbourne and the Northern Territory Government, Sparling (left) has initiated a new 3-year longitudinal study (2015–2017) of Aboriginal families and children engaged in the Abecedarian Approach. According to Sparling, the study "uses a time-lagged, propensity-matched cohort design and measures program implementation, child development, and change in mother-child interaction." Sparling will make an end-point group comparison at child age 36 months.

Also in Australia, the State Government of Queensland is implementing a state-wide trial of the Abecedarian Approach in low-resource and disadvantaged settings. The government is hiring seven Abecedarian Champions, one in each of its seven educational regions. These new Abecedarian staff members will receive training-of-trainers from Sparling, and with his mentoring and coaching they will then provide training in multiple communities throughout Queensland. The University of Melbourne will provide an evaluation of the process and outcome.

In addition, Sparling consults on a study of the Abecedarian Approach in an urban child care center in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where the enrolled children are from First Nations or recent immigrant families. Also in Manitoba, Red River College is hosting a web-based professional development resource for the Abecedarian Approach, for which Sparling is providing guidance. Further east, he has consulted with a community college (Cégep de Saint-Jérôme), north of Montreal, on the training of family child care providers and other early childhood professionals. Learning-Games® was published in French as Jeux d’enfants, and during the last three years several thousand early childhood workers have been trained in a 12-hour course.

In Mexico, Sparling has provided professional development for 75 leadership individuals in the Centros de Desarrollo Infantil network in Monterrey, Nuevo León, serving over 3000 children enrolled in high quality child care centers and over 1000 in parent-child education groups.

He also has trained pediatricians and other health professionals to implement the Abecedarian Approach as part of the parent education and support program offered in China’s Maternal and Child Health Hospitals.