An Inclusive Approach to Early Education
As stated earlier, inclusion is about values and beliefs, but it also must be about what works best for each child. Care must be taken to ensure that when a child is placed in an inclusive setting the child is also provided with adequate support to succeed. When a child is not able to learn in an inclusive setting it is because planning and support were not provided.
Diane Twachtman-Cullen, a speech pathologist at the Autism and Devel- opmental Disabilities Consultation Center in Cromwell, Connecticut, lists the following as some of the “worst practices in inclusion”:
insisting on inclusion at all costs.
settling for a mere physical presence in the classroom.
giving priority to the inclusive education model over the individual needs of children.
providing little or no training to staff
keeping the paraprofessional out of the loop.
teaching rote information so that the student can pass mandated tests in- stead of teaching needed skills.
watering down the curriculum.
failing to teach children about the nature of disabilities and how to interact with peers who have a disability (Dybvik, 2004).
Including young children with developmental disabilities in regular early childhood programs is the law.
The reasons for inclusion are based on ethical, social, developmental, and philosophical arguments. No longer is it acceptable, or legal, to keep children with disabilities out of the social and educational mainstream.
There are many benets to participating in an inclusive early childhood program for children with developmental problems, including opportunities to interact with and imitate children who have acquired a higher level of language, play, and social skills.
Typically developing children are provided signicant learning experiences in helping less able children acquire a variety of skills—motor, social, and intellectual.
A common concern, expressed by parents and teachers, is that the special needs of children may not be adequately met in an integrated program. Another is that typically developing children will receive less than their share of attention if children with disabilities are properly served. Then there is the concern that typically developing children will learn inappropriate and bizarre behaviors from atypical children. Numerous research studies conducted over the past ten years demonstrate that these anxieties are largely unfounded. In fact, the opposite is true. The advantages of inclusion for all children are numerous and well documented.
While inclusion is the law, many professionals caution that is not enough just to place a child with special needs in an inclusive setting; adequate sup- port must be provided.