CONNECT: Foundations of Inclusion Birth to Five (Updated 2014)

Welcome to the Foundations of Inclusion Birth
to Five. In this presentation we will hear from researchers
on the Connect Project, who are creating a series of web-based professional development
resources designed to focus on and respond to challenges faced each day by those working
with young children with disabilities and their families. After this presentation you will have awareness
of the following: The legal and policy foundations of inclusion, the research related to inclusion,
a definition and key components of early childhood inclusion It wasn’t so long ago in our history that
individuals with disabilities were isolated from society. Dramatic changes have occurred
that guarantee certain rights for persons with disabilities. These changes resulted
from advocacy of families on behalf of their children and self-advocacy of individuals
with disabilities. One key player in bringing about those fundamental changes was Dr. Ann Turnbull and her husband Rud who led many legislative battles to ensure that their son
had appropriate services in the least restrictive environment. Dr. Ann Turnbull Inclusion has a strong legal backing now,
but in the early 70’s when my son, Jay, was 6 years old and ready to start his first
year at school, his local school wasn’t ready for him. The school bus came down our
street to pick up other students, but it did not stop at our house to include Jay. The
reason was that Jay had an intellectual disability, and the schools were not required by law to
provide an education to children with disabilities. How would you have felt if you had been Jay’s
parent and he had been excluded? Imagine the same situation happening all across
America to thousands of families. You shouldn’t be surprised to learn that parents and their
professional allies sued states, And the courts responded by requiring states
to admit and educate students with disabilities, like Jay. Soon after, parents, professionals
and state officials rallied Congress to provide federal assistance in educating all students
with disabilities. Congress agreed and in 1975 passed the Individuals
with Disabilities Education Act, commonly called I.D.E.A. This legislation was amended
in 1987 and included a new section devoted to services and supports for Infants and Toddlers,
birth to three years of age and their families. These services and supports are to be provided
in the child’s natural environment. Through continued advocacy congress enacted
other laws benefiting young children with disabilities. More specific information on
legislation is available in the Policy Advisory on Inclusion. For this resource see the Connect
modules website. Now inclusion has solid legislative backing
as well as research support. The Research Synthesis document provides a summary of what
we have learned through research about early childhood inclusion. We will focus on 4 of
the 9 points contained in that document. For this complete resource see the Connect modules website. First, universal access to inclusive programs
for children with disabilities is far from a reality. Today in the U.S. approximately
50% of children with disabilities below the age of 5 receive special services in an inclusive
setting. Some areas of the country are doing well in this regard, while others lag far
behind. Second, research has shown that inclusion
can benefit children with and without disabilities, particularly in the area of social competence
with peers. There is solid research evidence that children enrolled in inclusive settings,
compared to self-contained settings, make adequate progress in language and cognition
and perform better in the area of social competence with peers.
There is limited evidence to suggest inclusion does not impede learning for typically developing
children. In fact, inclusion likely helps these children develop tolerance and acceptance
of individual differences in their peers. Third, specialized instruction is an important
component of inclusion and a factor that affects child outcomes. Dr. Virginia Buysse: A variety of research-based instructional
strategies now exist to support child development and learning in the context of inclusion.
Tiered models can help practitioners organize these approaches by level of intensity so
that the supports they offer children are matched to their individual learning needs.
Tier 1 in this system, is the basic level of supports that all children receive in a
high quality environment. Tier 2 focuses on small group interventions. And Tier 3 children
with a high level of learning needs are provided individualized interventions. The idea behind
tiered models is that decisions about instructional supports are based on children’s level and
rate of progress, with input from families and professionals. Fourth, inclusion takes many different forms,
as you may know from everyday experiences. The term inclusion means different things
to different people, which may be a barrier to ensuring that the fundamental rights of
each and every child are being fully realized. An agreed-upon definition that encompasses
all of the big ideas about inclusion was needed in the early childhood field to help guide
practitioners in implementing inclusion. So let’s start with Dr. Beth Rous sharing a
definition and the three defining features of early childhood inclusion. Responding to the need for an agreed upon
definition, two major early childhood professional organizations the Division for Early Childhood
(DEC) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) developed
and validated the following definition. Early childhood inclusion embodies the values,
polices, 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 definition states that 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. It is important to think about the desired
results of inclusion right from the start, rather than waiting until children and families
have already experienced inclusion. Understanding the desired results of inclusion helps to
create high expectations for every child and leads to appropriate goals and inclusive supports. Another important component of the definition
is the focus on three defining features of inclusion that can be used to identify high
quality early childhood programs and services. These include 1access, participation and supports. The first feature is access. This 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. In many cases, simple changes
to the environment or learning activity can facilitate access for an individual child. The second feature is participation. Even
if environments and programs are designed to facilitate access, some children may need
additional individualized accommodations and supports to participate fully in learning
experiences. Adults will use a range of instructional approaches to promote engagement in play and
learning activities. The third defining feature is supports. For
inclusion to work in community settings such as classrooms and homes, an infrastructure
of systems-level supports must be in place. These supports include professional development
for practitioners and families, resources and policies to promote communication and
collaboration among professionals and families, a variety of structures to help integrate
and coordinate special services with general early childhood services and standards that
address program quality and professional competencies More information on the definition is available
in the joint position statement on early childhood inclusion. For this resource see the Connect
modules website. Now returning to Jay’s story. I.D.E.A. gave
Jay the right to not only board the school bus but also to enter the school. That was
important: he had access. He had the right to be educated alongside his peers who did
not have a disability. Not only that, he was given opportunities to participate meaningfully
in school activities. And an infrastructure of supports was in place for school personnel
and his family. Indeed, he benefited so much from being in school with students who did
not have a disability that he graduated into an inclusive life in his community. Dr. Pam Winton, Director of Connect Ann Turnbull’s family and the practitioners
who worked with Jay received support from many, many people. Ironically most were part
of what you might call their informal support network or their family’s natural environment
(for example friends, neighbors and colleagues). And that’s an important point to remember.
Building partnerships among professionals, families, recreational programs, and faith-based
groups is a critical part of inclusion. Much more work needs to be done to ensure
that all young children with disabilities and their families have a sense of belonging
and access to the highest quality inclusive programs and services in this country and
that is where you have an important role. There are three concrete steps you can take. First of all, think about access. Become familiar
with the laws and the rights of children and their parents and responsibilities for teachers
related to the inclusion of children with disabilities in early childhood settings.
Then consider your program’s policies. Are the admission policies and practices welcoming
of all children, including those with disabilities? We have provided a resource that will help
you assess your admissions policies with respect to inclusion. Second, think about participation. Do you
and the other teachers in your program have the skills to implement practices that support
the active participation of each and every child in multiple learning opportunities throughout
the day? We have provided a description of research-based practices that support inclusion
to guide your thinking about that question And finally, think about support. You can’t
do this alone. Find allies to work with you. These allies include families and other professionals
in your community with whom you can partner to ensure that each child’s needs are being
met in your program. Consider your own professional development.
CONNECT modules are available as resources to help you continue to develop the skills
to be an effective and inclusive early childhood practitioner. Thank you for listening and best wishes on
your journey to make high quality inclusive early education a reality for each and every
child in your community. To help you on this journey, all of the resources
you have just heard about are available at the end of this presentation and on the CONNECT
Modules website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *