The topic of inclusion has become very popular in early learning. Many preschool programs are moving towards a curriculum that welcomes all children, rather than separating typically developing children from those with disabilities.
Inclusion is a big, complex topic with many variables to consider. In this article, we share a few basics to help you start thinking about how to create more inclusivity and equality in your program. The information shared below will help you start to think about possible first steps towards creating a classroom that welcomes children with varying abilities, gifts, and behaviors. Future Good2Know Network articles will delve into more specific inclusion topics.
What is Inclusion?
Inclusion in early childhood is defined in many ways and will look different from one program to another. When educators use the term “inclusive classroom,” they are typically referring to a classroom that has children with special needs learning alongside their typically developing peers.
NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) and DEC (Division for Early Childhood) describes inclusion the following way:
“The values, policies, and practices that support the right of every infant and young child and his or her family, regardless of ability, to participate in a broad range of activities and contexts as full members of families, communities, and society. The desired results of inclusive experiences for children with and without disabilities and their families include a sense of belonging and membership, positive social relationships and friendships, and development and learning to reach their full potential. The defining features of inclusion that can be used to identify high quality early childhood programs and services are access, participation, and supports.”
This definition highlights the defining features of inclusive programs: access to a variety of learning opportunities; accommodations in the curriculum and environment enabling each child to fully participate; and systems-level supports such as services and therapies. Click here to view NAEYC’s entire Early Childhood Inclusion Statement.
What are the Benefits of Inclusive Classrooms?