Improving Systems, Practices, and Outcomes

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Federal Requirements on Inclusion

The term inclusion is not mentioned in IDEA, but the law does have regulations in Part C and Part B that support inclusion and show a preference for serving children with disabilities in community settings and with typically developing peers. The Part C regulations about settings refers to the Natural Environment. The regulations in Part B refer to the placement setting as the Least Restrictive Environment.

Part C: Natural Environment

Services are to be provided in the child's natural environment to the maximum extent appropriate under Part C. Natural environments are defined as including the home and community settings in which children without disabilities participate. Early intervention services for any infant or toddler with a disability take place in a setting other than a natural environment only when early intervention cannot be achieved satisfactorily for the infant or toddler in a natural environment.

Relevant sections of the Part C regulations (2011):

Part B: Least Restrictive Environment

Part B regulations require states to ensure services to children ages three through five years are provided in the least restrictive environment (LRE). The LRE regulations show a preference for educating children with disabilities in regular classes. LRE for preschoolers with a disability can be provided in a variety of settings, including a regular kindergarten class, public or private preschool program, community-based child care facility, or in the child's home.

Relevant LRE sections of the Part B regulations (2016):

The Part B Regulations were first published in 2004 and went into effect in 2006. They were amended in 2016 and went in effect in 2017.

National Data and Reporting Requirements

Part C

States use data tables to report 618 data. Settings data is provided by the number and percentage of children ages birth through age two by race, and ethnicity.

Annual Performance Reports on state Part C data are available, including the extent to which infants and toddlers receive services in the natural environment as Indicator C2: Settings.

Part B, Section 619

States use data tables to report 618 Data. Educational environments data is collected by the number and percentage of children ages three-five by race, and ethnicity and disability

Annual Performance Reports on state Part B data are available, including the extent to which preschool children are served in the least restrictive environment as indicator B6: Preschool LRE.


The IDC and ECTA Centers produced a tool kit to help with data collection and reporting for 618 data and SPP/APR Part B Indicator 6, Educational Environments. The tool kit includes federal information and guidance, a decision tree, and scenarios that illustrate appropriate reporting categories. IDC also offers a webinar on Indicators C2 and B6.

Policy: Letters and Guidance

The Office of Special Education Programs and professional organizations provide additional information and resources on inclusion and the IDEA.

Other Federal Laws

There are other federal laws that support inclusive policies and practices for young children. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Head Start Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. All have provisions.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects individuals with mental or physical disabilities from discrimination in employment, public accommodations, public transportation, and telecommunications.

When the ADA refers to young children in public accommodations, it includes public and private settings. Children in public settings are covered by Title II of the ADA. Children in private settings are covered by Title III of the ADA. Public programs include Head Start programs run by public agencies. Private programs include family child care homes, child care centers, nursery schools, and preschools.

Head Start Act

The Head Start Act provides comprehensive developmental services for low-income infants, toddlers and preschool children, ages birth to five years, and social services for their families. Specific services for children focus on education, socio-emotional development, physical and mental health, and nutrition.

Information Memorandum: Inclusion of Children with Disabilities (2020)

This memo highlights the requirements in the Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) related to the inclusion of children with disabilities and delays. It includes a list of free resources for grantees' use in implementation efforts.

Additional information is available on performance standards, additional services for children with disabilities, and requirements for operation of Head Start programs by grantee and delegate agencies. A program must ensure at least 10% of its total funded enrollment is filled by children receiving services under the IDEA, unless a waiver if granted.

Section 504

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disabilities in public and private programs and activities that receive federal funds. Public schools, Head Start agencies, and all other programs that receive federal dollars, either directly or indirectly, are bound by the requirements of Section 504.