Early Childhood Intervention
Making inclusion work
In the Summer 2015 issue of Texas Child Care, we discussed tips for including a child with disabilities or delays in the classroom or early care and education program. Unfortunately, many children still face challenges with being appropriately included in early childhood programs.
To address this issue, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education recently released a joint policy statement about this subject. The full statement can be found at www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/earlylearning/joint-statement-full-text.pdf.
The statement discusses how children with delays and disabilities benefit from being included with their peers in day care and preschool settings. Research demonstrates that children with disabilities and delays who participate in inclusive early childhood programs make greater developmental progress than children who are enrolled in separate programs. The benefits of inclusion apply to other children, not just those with disabilities. Research shows that typically developing children who attend inclusive early childhood programs “have greater compassion and empathy” and have “a better understanding of diversity and disability as concepts.”
The policy statement also examines the legal foundations for inclusion, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Privately run child care centers must comply with Title III of the ADA. Title III requires that child care centers accept children with disabilities unless their presence would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others or require a fundamental alteration of the program. More information about how the ADA applies to child care centers can be found at www.ada.gov/childqanda.htm.
Finally, the policy statement recommends steps that states and local organizations can take to improve meaningful inclusion for young children with disabilities and delays. Improving inclusion is not just the role of child care centers. “Addressing the remaining challenges and barriers to inclusion in early childhood programs and ensuring children with disabilities receive the individualized supports they need to thrive, requires a communitywide partnership.” Your local ECI program can assist you with guidance and suggestions for how to include young children with disabilities and delays in your program.
If ECI services are being delivered for a child in your program, a huge part of the service is teaching you how the child can be meaningfully included in the classroom routines and activities. For example, the ECI service provider may help you modify your classroom so the child can access materials independently, may give suggestions on how to help provide support so the child can participate during circle time, or may show you how to use a visual schedule board and auditory transition cues to help a child manage behavior.
Even if you don’t currently have a child with disabilities enrolled in your program, your local ECI program can provide you with materials to explain the ECI program and to help identify children who may need to be referred to the ECI program.
ECI can also assist you through professional development. The inclusion policy statement describes the importance of having staff trained in working with children with disabilities, including knowing how to support children with social-emotional and behavioral challenges. Your local ECI program may be able to provide presentations to your staff about working with young children with disabilities and their families.
A free resource available online is the Center for Disease Control’s Learn the Signs—Act Early training www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/index.html. Additionally, the Center on the Social-Emotional Foundations of Early Learning, http://csefel.vanderbilt.edu/, offers free online resources that contain information about social-emotional development and behavioral challenges. This website provides training modules, tip sheets, and materials for families.
Inclusion benefits all children. By working together, you and ECI can ensure that all children in your center have meaningful, developmentally appropriate experiences.
To find a local ECI program in your area, call the DARS Inquiries Line at 1-800-628-5115, or search for a program at www.dars.state.tx.us/ecis/searchprogram.asp.