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An Inclusive Approach to Early Education

or specialized training for the existing staff. Support services, such as speech therapy and physical therapy, are conducted in natural places in the school environment, including the classroom, gym, and playground.

This chapter focuses on current perspectives on inclusive education for young children. A brief overview of effective practices will be given; the speci-

  • cs of what to do are reserved for the remaining units of the text. The outcomes

of inclusive education, the benets of inclusion, and some of the barriers to inclusion will also be discussed.


“Inclusion is a right, not a privilege for a select few” (Oberti v. Board of Edu- cation in Clementon School District, 1993). The call for inclusion continues to come from families, professional organizations, and advocacy groups. Inclusion


providing all students within the mainstream appropriate educational pro- grams that are challenging yet geared to their capabilities and needs as

well as any support and assistance they and/or their teachers may need to be successful in the mainstream. But an inclusive school also goes beyond this. An inclusive school is a place where everyone belongs, is accepted, sup-

ports, and is supported by their peers and other members of the school com- munity in the course of having their educational needs met. (Stainback & Stainback, 1996)

Inclusion is not a set of strategies or a placement issue. Inclusion is about belonging to a community—a group of friends, a school community, or a neigh- borhood. Ehlers (1993) describes three ways to view inclusion: through beliefs and values, through experiences, and through outcomes.

The beliefs and values that every family brings to inclusion reect the unique history, cultural inuences, and relationships of that family (Harry, 1998; Luera, 1993). Family choices must drive the inclusion process. The family identies the community to which it belongs and in which the child is to be included. The concept of “goodness of t” (Thomas & Chess, 1977) is essential when develop- ing inclusive programs. An inclusive program must consider the uniqueness of every child and family and how it can address the child’s strengths and needs as well as family priorities.

The beliefs and values that inuence inclusion occur at the levels of the fam- ily, the community, and society (Peck, 1993). A family’s belief system will have a direct impact on its views about inclusion.

The sociopolitical context in which children and families live and work also impacts inclusion. This includes how our society views high-quality early child- hood care and education for all children. In other words, if providing high- quality child care for typically developing children is not a societal priority, providing high-quality child care for children with disabilities will not be a priority either.


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