Making Sound Preschool LRE Decisions Creating a Shared Definition of Inclusion
In this activity, participants explore essential elements of inclusion, and work to create a shared definition of the concept. IEP teams will need and use this shared understanding to guide discussions when Making Sound Preschool LRE Decisons for each and every child, especially those who have been historically underrepresented and underserved. (15-45 min.)
- Early Childhood Inclusion: A Summary
- Policy Statement on Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs
- Mechanism for sharing definitions (e.g. Google Docs, PowerPoint, flip chart, Padlet, Jamboard)
Encourage the participants share words on the meaning of inclusion. Record their responses and note common themes. Compare these definitions to the following two definitions of inclusion, and also to relevant state, local or cross-sector definitions the group uses in their daily work.
Definition of Early Childhood Inclusion
Early childhood inclusion embodies 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.
What is meant by Access, Participation, and Supports?
- Access— means providing a wide range of activities and environments for every child by removing physical barriers and offering multiple ways to promote learning and development.
- Participaton— means using a range of instructional approaches to promote engagement in play and learning activities, and a sense of belonging for every child.
- Supports— refer to broader aspects of the system such as professional development, incentives for inclusion, and opportunities for communication and collaboration among families and professionals to assure high quality inclusion.
Inclusion in early childhood programs refers to including children with disabilities in early childhood programs, together with their peers without disabilities; holding high expectations and intentionally promoting participation in all learning and social activities, facilitated by individualized accommodations; and using evidence-based services and supports to foster their development (cognitive, language, communication, physical, behavioral, and social-emotional), friendships with peers, and sense of belonging. This applies to all young children with disabilities, from those with the mildest disabilities, to those with the most significant disabilities.
Discuss commonalities between the definitions, and attempt to reach concensus on a definition of inclusion using one of the following methods. Depending on the group's size, you may want to divide into smaller groups, each of which will develop their own definition.
Creating a Shared Definition of Inclusion
- Adopt an existing definition;
- Edit a definition to better reflect needs and intentions; or
- Create a new definition.
Spend some time finalizing your definiton, then determine appropriate next steps for sharing and disseminating it with all stakeholders.
Note to Facilitators
Reinforce that a sound LRE decisions must be made for each and every child, especially those children with disabilities and their families, and those who have been historically underrepresented and underserved.
Options and Related Activities
Video: A Parent's Perspective on Inclusion in Early Childhood
Video © 2015 used with permission from the Desired Results Access Project, Funded by the California Department of Education, Special Education Division
Janelle Rethwisch talks about her perspective on inclusion for her daughter Lydia, in early childhood and beyond. This video can serve as a good introduction for families who are new to the concept of inclusion or who are deciding on service options. (6 min.)
Video: Meaningful Inclusion in Early Childhood
Video courtesy Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
How can a school meaningfully include students with disabilities in an early childhood program? In moving interviews, parents in this video reveal the benefits for their children. Educators describe what they do and how they got there. These stories come from the Sun Prairie (Wisconsin) Area School District, where inclusion is the norm for all early childhood programs supported by public dollars, whether offered in community or district settings. (6 min.)
Indicators of High-Quality Inclusion
Review and discuss the most applicable Indicators of High-Quality Inclusion, and further refine your definition to include a definition of high-quality inclusion.
Practices in Action
Have small groups discuss and describe what each theme looks like in practice or how it is operationalized. Document the practices and disseminate them with the definition.