An Inclusive Approach to Early Education
Structuring Child–Child Interaction
The effectiveness of inclusion depends on ongoing interactions between chil- dren with and without disabilities. Merely placing children with disabilities in the same settings as their typical peers will not automatically lead to social interactions and acceptance (Gutierrez, A., Hale, M. N., Gossens-Archuleta, K. & Sobrino-Sanchez, V. (2007), McGreggor, Vogelsberg, 1998). Guralnick and his colleagues continue to conduct research on this issue (Guralnick & Neville, 1997). One of their early efforts (Devoney, Guralnick, & Rubin, 1974) indi- cated that disabled and non-disabled children played together when the teacher structured the environment to promote such interaction. (Chapters 13 and 15 discuss ways for teachers to accomplish this.) An interesting sidelight in the Devoney study was that children with disabilities, playing with children who are non-disabled, played in a more organized and mature way than had been characteristic of their earlier play.
In another study, focused on imitation in an inclusive classroom, Garnkle and Schwartz (1998) demonstrated that children with autism can learn to imi- tate their peers during small-group activities. After the imitation training, the amount of time that children with and without disabilities played together in small groups during free-choice time increased.
A wide variety of strategies can be employed to increase interactions be- tween typical children and those with disabilities, including teaching typical peers specic initiation and interaction skills, using cooperative learning struc- tures for small group instruction, and teaching students with disabilities critical social skills. (Skipper, 2006). From the ever-growing library of research, it is apparent that the teacher’s structuring of play activities is essential. Planning for an inclusive early childhood program must focus on activities that lead to children with and without disabilities working and playing together.
1 The mere act of placing children with and without disabilities together in a classroom does not ensure successful inclusion and peer interaction.
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