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by Camille Catlett
Today, ever-increasing numbers of infants and young children with and without disabilities play and learn together in a variety of places – homes, early childhood programs, and neighborhoods, to name a few. Promoting development and belonging for every child is a widely held value among early education and intervention professionals and throughout our society. Early childhood inclusion is the term used to reflect these values and societal views. However, the lack of a shared national definition has created some misunderstandings about inclusion.
In 2007, two major organizations serving young children – the Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children (DEC) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) – began a thoughtful journey toward creating a shared position statement on early childhood inclusion that can be used nationwide. The process, which was orchestrated by the National Professional Development Center on Inclusion, included input from a joint DEC/NAEYC work group, discussion by the governing boards of both organizations, and an extensive national validation process that yielded over 700 individual inputs.
In April 2009, Early Childhood Inclusion: A Joint Position Statement of the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) was officially approved by both organizations. The position statement offers a definition of early childhood inclusion, as well as recommendations for how the joint position statement can be used to improve early childhood services for all children throughout the United States.
The definition of early childhood inclusion provided in the position statement is not designed as a litmus test for determining whether a program can be considered inclusive, but rather is a guide for identifying the key components of high quality inclusive programs. That definition is as follows (DEC/NAEYC, 2009, p.2):
Early childhood inclusion embodies the values, policies, and practices that sup-port the right of every infant and young child and his or her family, regardless of ability, to participate in a broad range of activities and contexts as full members of families, communities, and society. The desired results of inclusive experiences for children with and without disabilities and their families include a sense of belonging and membership, positive social relation-ships and friendships, and development and learning to reach their full potential. The defining features of inclusion that can be used to identify high quality early childhood programs and services are access, participation, and supports.
Those three defining features – access, participation, and supports – were further described as follows:
The ideas put forward in the inclusion position statement can be used by families and professionals to shape practices and influence policies related to inclusion. First and foremost, an agreed-upon definition of inclusion such as that offered here should be used to create high expectations for infants and young children with disabilities, and to shape educational policies and practices that support high quality inclusion in a wide range of early childhood programs and settings. Recommendations for using the position statement to accomplish these goals include:
Early Childhood Inclusion: A Joint Position Statement of the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) will be influencing conversations, presentations, and professional development efforts for years to come. In the coming months, the National Professional Development Center on Inclusion will be hosting blogs and rolling out related products and information (see http://community.fpg.unc.edu/npdci) in hopes that families, practitioners, and administrators will engage in thoughtful discussions of how to support quality inclusion for each and every child. The most important question remains: How will you incorporate these ideas in your work?
DEC/NAEYC. (2009). Early childhood inclusion: A joint position statement of the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina, FPG Child Development Institute. Retrieved 6/15/09 from http://community.fpg.unc.edu/resources/articles/Early_Childhood_Inclusion.
Camille Catlett is Investigator with the Frank Porter Graham (FPG) Child Development Institute, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She may be reached at 919/966-6635 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The position statement and related resources can be found on the Web site of the National Professional Development Center on Inclusion at http://community.fpg.unc.edu/npdci.
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Retrieved from the Web site of the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota (http://ici.umn.edu/products/impact/221). Citation: Catlett, C., Smith, M. Bailey, A. & Gaylord, V. (Eds.). (Summer/Fall 2009). Impact: Feature Issue on Early Childhood Education and Children with Disabilities, 22(1). [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration].
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