Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Feds Release Guidance on Inclusion of Children With Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs #inclusion

The federal departments of Education and Health & Human Services issued guidance yesterday urging early learning programs to adopt inclusion of children with disabilities.  The guidance urges school districts, states, lead agencies and other providers to ensure that children with disabilities receive high quality early learning programs in an inclusive setting.

The policy statement asserts that "...all young children with disabilities should have access to inclusive high-quality early childhood programs, where they are provided with individualized and appropriate support in meeting high expectations.  Children with disabilities and their families continue to face significant barriers to accessing inclusive high-quality early childhood programs, and too many preschool children with disabilities are only offered the option of receiving special education services in settings separate from their peers without disabilities."

"The ED/HHS policy statement:
  • Sets an expectation for high-quality inclusion in early childhood programs;
  • Highlights the legal and research base for inclusion;
  • Identifies challenges to adopting inclusive practices;
  • Provides recommendations to States and local programs and providers for increasing inclusive early learning opportunities for all children; and
  • Links to free resources for States, local programs and providers, and families that have been developed to support inclusion of children with disabilities in high-quality early education programs.
The policy statement was written with the input of early learning professionals, families, and other early learning stakeholders. Though it focuses on including young children with disabilities, it is ED’s and HHS’s shared vision that all people be meaningfully included in all facets of society throughout the course of their lives. This begins in early childhood programs and continues into schools, places of employment, and the broader community."


You can review the press release here.  The guidance includes a review of the legal requirements of IDEA, Parts C & Part B §619, as well as §504, ADA and Head Start. The guidance document is available here.

7 comments:

  1. Thank you for your post on the inclusion of preschool children with disabilities with their peers who are non disabled. We know research shows that children who receive a high quality early intervention program show good progress in social and cognitive growth. I worked in a special day class of preschoolers with moderate to severe children where typical children were included for part of the day and I noticed how significant the model of behavior and play was for the students with disabilities. The typical children were able to initiate play with the children who did not, they were able to model pretend play and language skills in a way that the children with disabilities could not. We saw how these interactions throughout the day served to increase children's skills beyond what a teacher could do alone. What was also beautiful was the care and empathy that the younger non disabled peers learned from being in the class.
    I wish the class were more of a full inclusion model, however at the time it was an attempt at meaningful inclusion. I know the district was visiting other districts who had a full inclusion preschool program and were hoping to change to that in the future.

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    1. Martha,

      Thank you for your comment.

      JG

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  2. Thank you for posting this. It is good to see that the Federal Government is taking more initiative with early education for all students, special needs included. It is still early in the game, so districts are making changes as they go along. My friend has to send her special needs 4 year old to a neighboring city for preschool as her local district does not offer services for her son's issues. At first, her family had to cover the cost of sending their son to the neighboring city and her husband had to work an extra hour at the end of the day to make up for the hour that he was late each morning. Her district has since settled with her (she did not take them to court), so now her local city buses the student to the other district and they cover the cost of the occupational therapist.

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  4. I believe it is a good idea, not only for the students with disabilities, but for all of the students in the classroom. However, after having worked in a classroom for students with severe emotional and behavioral issues, I do not believe all students should be included. If they pose a danger to others, they should not be allowed to participate. Teachers are responsible for the physical and emotional safety of all of the students in their classroom, and as such, this particular case would not be beneficial for everyone. However, I believe that all other cases, even those with significant support needs, can and should be included. Some may need a paraprofessional for support and others may not. Either way, I believe ALL of the students benefit. I believe most of the teasing comes from not knowing. Not ever having been exposed to differences in the world. When children are learning alongside those with differences, they learn to appreciate those differences, they also learn acceptance and compassion and to treat others they way you'd like to be treated.The students with disabilities benefit with the opportunity to feel accepted. Their emotional and social needs are also met which gives them much more confidence. They enjoy being a part of the general education class and making friends.

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    1. I should clarify that I am referring to the most violent of students and of full inclusion. Students with behavior issues should be evaluated on an individual basis and many are able to manage their aggression with help. Our students are included with their general education peers for specials classes with the help of a paraprofessional who can bring them back to class if they become disruptive and nothing seems to work. We all know that some days are better than others and that tomorrow is another day.

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  5. Mark & Julia,

    Thanks for your comments.

    JG

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