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Early Intervention and Public Policy

moment and helps the baby build on it. Experienced parents usually recognize the sign; inexperienced parents may not. The teacher in an infant program, whether center based or in home, is geared to such moments and ready to pro- vide encouragement. Once pulling to stand is mastered, the baby’s hands may be moved along the tabletop to teach the fundamentals of cruising. (Usually the baby’s feet follow almost automatically as they learn to walk along, using fur- niture for support.) Teachers also make sure the environment is safe by keeping things off the oor so the baby does not experience frightening falls that may discourage further cruising.

As an infant becomes skilled at cruising, another teachable moment occurs: lifting one hand and one foot as if ready to try a step with less support from the furniture. Again, the infant who cannot see will need special encouragement and a safe environment. Pieces of equipment and furniture, for example, should be left in the same place. It is frightening to reach for the support of a familiar table or chair to nd it is no longer there.

The infant also needs someone to describe what he or she is doing and promote more of it: “You walked to Delias chair. Can you walk back to the piano?”; “You have your hand on the rocking chair. Let’s go nd the rock- ing boat.” Simple games such as “Find Maryanne” (from the direction of the teacher’s voice) also build on teachable moments and keep the baby moving.

The more the infant who is visually impaired (or any other infant with or without a disability) moves about, the more the infant learns in every area of development. In fact, a major reason for using teachable moments is to keep the child involved in the process of learning. Hanson and Lynch (1995) put it this way:

The child learns to be motivated and engaged in the environment and to seek interactions both with the social aspects of the environment—people— and with the nonsocial or physical aspects of the environment of toys, mate- rials, and household items. (p. 210)


Another important rationale for inclusive early childhood settings is that young children with disabilities will observe and imitate more advanced skills modeled by typically developing children (Goldstein, 1993). The logic is sound. Imitat- ing others is a major avenue of learning for everyone, old and young alike.

Young children learn by doing. If children with developmental problems are to learn to play appropriately, they must have children to imitate and play with. If children with behavior problems are to learn to share and take turns, they must have opportunities to imitate and interact with children who know how to share and take turns. If a young child with severe communication problems is to learn to initiate conversations, there must be peers available who are interest- ing and appropriate conversational partners. In a segregated classroom where there are only children with autism, it is unlikely that children will do much talking or modeling of appropriate language skills for each other—a powerful argument for inclusive education.

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