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An Inclusive Approach to Early Education

National Association of State Boards of Education (1992) in the document Winners All, which calls for inclusive education for all students. The underlying assumption of the include-and-support period is that people with disabilities should be included as full members of society and that they should be provided appropriate supports, such as education and accessible environments, to ensure their inclusion and meaningful participation.


Early childhood education has gained widespread acceptance in our society during the past quarter century. The systematic integration of young children with disabilities into these programs is relatively new to the early education scene. The rationale for inclusive early childhood programs will be discussed in terms of ethical issues, socialization concerns, developmental considerations, and the always pressing issue of cost effectiveness.

The Ethical Issue

The rights of children with disabilities to as full a life as possible is a major ethical force among advocates of inclusion. Dunn (1968) rst brought the unfairness of segregated education for children with disabilities to the pub- lic consciousness. He asserted that special classes, for the most part, provided inadequate education for children with developmental delays. The integration of children with disabilities runs parallel to the multicultural approach to early education. According to Derman-Sparks (1988–1989), the common goal is to gain acceptance in our educational system for children with noticeably different cultural, intellectual, or physical characteristics. Until this is accomplished, eth- ical issues related to any kind of segregation in our schools remain unresolved.

The Socialization Issue

Including young children with disabilities in the educational mainstream im- plies equal social status with children who are developing normally. Inclusion promotes awareness. Members of the community become more accustomed to children with developmental disabilities; this leads to greater acceptance. It cannot be overemphasized that young children with developmental disabili- ties are entitled to the same kinds of enriching early experiences as typically developing children. As Haring and McCormick (1994) point out, “separating young children with handicaps [disabilities] from normal experiences creates distance, misunderstanding, and rejection. ... Moreover, separating these young- sters from the real world means that there must be reentry. Reentry problems can be avoided by not removing the child from normal settings” (p. 102). Young children with disabilities who play and interact only with other children with disabilities will not learn normal social skills. Play with typically developing


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